Navigating School Safety During COVID-19

Navigating School Safety During COVID-19

As we move closer to our 7th month of school during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are settled in (as much as can be expected) to a new set of health and safety protocols that were introduced at the start of the school year. Now, with vaccinations beginning to roll out, our school communities have begun wondering how these safety protocols may be changing or what they can do to continue keeping families safe as we continue to navigate through this pandemic. As a refresher, let’s take a look at some of the best ways to maintain student and school safety during COVID-19.

COVID-19 School Safety

By now, we’ve all become accustomed to the school safety requirements that have come about over the course of the past year. We have become pros at hand-washing, mask wearing, coughing in our elbows, social distancing, and vigilantly keeping an eye on our health symptoms. We know to keep ourselves, and our family members, home from work or school if we show any signs of possible infection such as:

  • Fever
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Coughing and/or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Body Aches
  • Sore throat

Following the recommended safety guidelines and knowing the symptoms to watch for are the best ways to arm ourselves and our families against infection. But now that we are seeing vaccinations being rolled out, have the guidelines changed? Should we be practicing different safety protocols now?

Maintaining Safe Health Protocols

While we may be tempted to begin loosening our safety protocols as vaccinations become more dispersed, it’s important to understand we need to continue our same level of precautionary measures until they have been updated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and any additional local/school guidelines. In short, keep doing what you’ve been doing for the past several months in order to help us navigate through the pandemic.

Here at Tessa International, this means our staff and students/families will continue to follow our rigorous guidelines to keep everyone safe. This means, we will continue to:

  • Utilize staggered drop offs, pickups, and recess times for students
  • Limit building access to staff and students whenever possible
  • Daily temperature checks
  • Proper hand-washing and sanitizing at regular intervals and as needed
  • Mask wearing required for kindergarten and up, strongly encouraged for nursery and pre-k
  • Keep using indoor shoes or slippers
  • Toy and play items regularly disinfected as needed throughout the day
  • Daily professional deep cleaning of all areas
  • Use designated play areas only – non-Tessa-owned play equipment will not be used

Student Safety through the End of the Pandemic

We are extremely proud of our students, staff, and community members who have all pulled together to help navigate this health pandemic. Everyone has done a wonderful job putting health and safety first and limiting the risks of being exposed to COVID-19. We will continue to update you as we progress through the year and new developments come about. Keep up the good work, Tessa families!

5 Tips to Help Kids Stay Safe During Their Return to the Classroom

5 Tips to Help Kids Stay Safe During Their Return to the Classroom

By now, you’ve likely done your due diligence researching the health and safety guidelines for our children’s return to the classroom. You know how and when to handle modified drop offs and pickups. You know to monitor your child’s health and keep up with doctor visits and immunizations. The list of new safety guidelines may seem endless, but they are necessary. So how do we go about easing the stress they may put on children as they return to the classroom?

How to Ease the Return to the Classroom

Though it may seem like a lot to take in, there are a few things parents can do to help prepare their children for the first day of post-pandemic school. By helping children understand what to expect, it will normalize the new routines and simplify the entire process. Here are 5 tips to help ease the transition safely:

1 – Remain Positive

Children pick up on our emotions and feelings, even if we don’t express them verbally in front of them. The best way to help children remain positive about the new practices they’ll be facing, is by remaining positive ourselves. Be aware of what we are saying (both verbally and non-verbally) and try to focus on the positives.

2 – Practice Hygiene Routines at Home

This is something you’ve likely been doing already but stressing the importance of proper hygiene at home will help children continue to do so at school. Get them in the habit of washing their hands at least once an hour as well as utilizing hand sanitizer and being mindful of keeping their hands away from their faces.

3 – Make a Practice Run to School

It’s one thing to explain a new school drop off or pickup routine to your children, but it’s quite another to experience it. Children often learn best by actively participating in something versus simply being told, so it can be greatly beneficial to try a practice run to school before the first day. This can help them better visualize what to expect when they arrive on the first day.

4 – Keep Open Communication About What’s to Come

Another crucial element to easing the transition back to school is to keep an open line of communication with children as well as school administration. Knowing what the specific guidelines and protocol will be and effectively helping our children understand them through open communication is key to normalizing the new routines.

5 – Get in the Routine Ahead of Time

Lastly, as with every school year in the past, transitioning back to school routines can be tough if kids are not prepared. This year should be treated no different on that aspect. Help children be ready on the first day of school by getting them in the habit of school day routines well in advance. Help them by regulating bedtimes, morning processes, and having schedules in place.

Despite the uncertainties that may be felt about the reopening of schools, we can help our children be safe and prepared by our actions and our communication efforts. Be the example and prepare them for a healthy return to the classroom!

Preparing for the Return to School in the Wake of COVID-19

Preparing for the Return to School in the Wake of COVID-19

While area schools set COVID-19 safety plans into effect for the official return to the classroom in the next few weeks, many parents are wondering what safeguards they should be putting into place as well. Since keeping our children, staff, and family members healthy during this unprecedented pandemic is the highest priority of our community, we certainly want to make sure we are all doing our part to ensure the safety of everyone upon our return to school.

Preparing Your Family for the Return to School

With the beginning of the new school year upon us, families have been filled with questions regarding how education administrators are planning to keep them safe in the wake of COVID-19. After several months of being away from the traditional classrooms, the return seems to carry a degree of uncertainty among families as we all work to safeguard our community from the spread of illness.

The best way to ensure the health and well-being of students and staff this school year is by staying informed of all guidelines and protocol as well as preparing ourselves for the new norms. School functions may look a bit different this year, but it doesn’t mean it needs to be scary or uncertain for our communities. There are several things families can do to help wane any animosity and keep the return to the classroom an exciting time for everyone.

Understanding State and Local Guidelines

The first step in preparing for the new school year is to familiarize yourself and your family members with the local and state regulations regarding safety in school settings. By knowing the legal health and safety requirements placed on all New Jersey childcare facilities and schools by the Department of Children and Families (DCF), we can begin to understand the extensive precautions being taken to ensure the safety of staff and students.

At the state level, schools are required to abide by strict COVID-19 safety protocols in order to remain open for in-person teachings this fall. These health measures include things like:

  • Daily body temperature monitoring of all who enter the facility
  • Classroom sizes are limited to no more than 10 students
  • Face masks are required for all staff members
  • Extensive sanitization and disinfectant cleaning routines by staff and students
  • Completion of proper daily licensing log for the DCF to retain program eligibility

Preparing for School Safety Regulations

Once you have familiarized your family with the DCF requirements for a safe return to the classroom, the next step is to understand any additional protocol implemented by the school administration. Since many schools are opting to include more extensive health and safety regulations, it’s important to know what to expect before the first day of class.

At Tessa International, we have carefully considered the most efficient ways to ensure the safety of our students and staff and are already utilizing our On-Site Safety Measure Considerations that have been put into place for all summer programs as well as the upcoming 2020-2021 school year. Among the new protocols, families should prepare for the return with the following requirements:

  • Staff are required to test for COVID-19 prior to the start of the school year. Students are urged (but not required) to do the same.
  • Ensure all children are current with their physical health screenings and immunizations.
  • Have all emergency medical and personal forms filled out in detail, including contact information in the event of sudden illness.
  • Help children prepare for daily body temperature checks and health screenings by getting them used to this at home.
  • Normalize frequent handwashing and the use of hand sanitizer at home – this will be a frequent occurrence during the school year.

Your 2020 School Supply Shopping List Additions

With the introduction of new health and safety procedures this year, it goes without saying there will be additional school supplies in order to perpetuate these sanitization efforts. In addition to the usual school supply items, families may be asked to provide items such as:

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Surface disinfecting products
  • Gloves
  • Facemasks

Many schools may need help keeping up with essential sanitization and safety items, so it is possible you will see these items added to their list. As always, however, it’s best to check with school officials for a complete list of necessary supplies prior to the start of class to ensure your child is safely prepared for the first day.

Helping Kids Learn to Practice Healthy Germ Fighting Habits

One of the best ways families can prepare for the new year is by devoting time to helping children better understand what the changes will be and what is expected of them. By helping to normalize routines like frequent hand washing, using sanitizers, regular surface sanitizing regimens, and keeping safe distances from others, parents can help lessen any animosity they may face on the first day of class.

If you’re looking for ways to help your child ease into the new regulations, here are a few tips for parents to try:

  • Practice hourly handwashing at home – more frequently as needed.
  • Allow children to use child-safe cleaning and sanitization products on home surfaces after using them.
  • Have children wear masks at home to enable them to get used to having them on during school.

Community Safety Commitment to School

While the current public health state has caused a great deal of change for our global communities, it has also shone light on our abilities to band together – even at a distance – and persevere. Our commitment to not only the health of our own families, but those of our friends, neighbors, and fellow community members, is what will help us not just pull through this pandemic but come out with a greater understanding and respect for all. Welcome back!

Preparing for School During the Pandemic: How to Plan Ahead

Preparing for School During the Pandemic: How to Plan Ahead

With so many uncertainties about the upcoming school year, many families are full of questions and wondering what’s in store for their children this fall. While government officials and school administrations work to hash out exactly what the next school year is going to look like in the wake of COVID-19, rest assured, there are ways parents can begin preparing for school during the pandemic.

Preparing for School During the Pandemic

As we begin to open up dialogues with our children regarding their return to the classroom this fall after an extended distance learning session and summer break, many parents will likely be faced with a montage of questions. Trying to outline just what this next school year will bring is a tricky subject since there are still so many unknowns, but one of the most important aspects is to remain flexible and understanding of change.

Our upcoming school year will most certainly not look like any previous years and that can cause a bit of confusion and anxiety for children. As parents, the best way to prepare our children for these changes is by making them aware of them in advance and by practicing what this may look like at home in order to help them get used to certain health and safety requirements that will surely be part of their new routine.

Tips to Keep Kids Safe Upon Their Return to School

Upon their return to school, kids will be faced with many new policies and routines that will likely take some getting used to. To help ease this transition, there are a few things parents can do to help keep their children safe as well as prepare them for the changes ahead:

  • Practice frequent hand washing. Your child should be aware of the importance for frequent hand washing as well as practice making a conscious effort not to touch communal items unless absolutely necessary.
  • Prepare them for the 6 feet rule. Most classrooms will be practicing the 6 feet rule, meaning desks will likely be spaced further apart than they may be used to. Let children know not to attempt to move closer and the reasons for the distance.
  • Participate in cleaning and disinfecting stations. Make your children aware of the importance of keeping items clean and sanitized and prepare them to help their school administrators with these tasks if asked to do so.
  • Get them used to PPE. Most of us are more than familiar with using personal protection equipment (PPE) by now, but since it will likely be a requirement for children this fall, it’s a good idea to get children used to the practice as well, if not already.

Preparing for School Changes

Knowing to expect a great deal of changes this school year is half the battle with preparing children for the break from the norm. Be sure to keep your children in the loop of the new changes as things develop closer to the first day of school – this way they have time to adjust without being thrown into an unfamiliar school situation from day one.

Covid-19 Summer Safety: Healthy Family Tips for Warm Weather Activities

Covid-19 Summer Safety: Healthy Family Tips for Warm Weather Activities

As we navigate our way through the warmer months in the midst of Covid-19, many families are wondering how to keep safe while still getting out to try and enjoy the season. Some local organizations are beginning to open their doors again and residents are seeing activity opportunities pop up once again – but are they safe? Navigating Covid-19 summer safety can bring with it a slew of questions, so knowing how to safely participate in some of your favorite warmer month family activities is the best way to ease your concerns in the wake of the pandemic.

Understanding the Basics of Covid-19 Summer Safety

You may notice some of your family’s favorite local businesses and locations starting to resume activities and programs for children in your area. Many local fun spots are trying to find innovative ways to continue to supply our communities with our favorite activities while remaining vigilant about public health and safety. With so many things beginning to open up, it raises the question, how do we know what is safe and what to avoid? How do we keep our families safe but still allow for some play time outside of the home?

As a general rule, your first step for keeping your family safe as things open up is to check all local guidelines and regulations. Look to see what the CDC and public health officials recommend for public interactions to ensure you’re approaching each situation appropriately. From there, it’s also good to speak with personnel in charge of the area you’re looking to visit so you understand any additional regulations and guidelines they are implementing. Knowing these two things will help you to understand the risks a bit better as well as know how to come prepared to each activity.

Safely Navigating Summer Activities

If you’ve been looking forward to a little sunshine therapy at your local recreational pool or beach, or your little ones have been looking forward to visiting their favorite parks or attending their annual summer camp, you’re not alone. Summer months are filled with camps, parks, and water fun for area families – but are they safe to attend in the midst of the pandemic?

No matter what type of activity you’re looking to participate in, there are some basic guidelines to keep in mind beforehand:

  • Check site specific protocol. In addition to CDC guidelines and those of your local government, individual locations often have additional safety checks in place. Find out what their distancing regulations are in terms of space capacity, parking lot rules, and what the personal protection equipment requirements may be. You’ll also want to be sure it is noted that all public spaces (restrooms, lobbies, play areas, etc.) are frequently cleaned and disinfected for your safety as well.
  • Be prepared for your family protection. While you likely know to bring things like your masks and sanitizers, it’s also a good idea to pack extras. Outdoor activities make it easy to misplace items needed for safety, so having extras on hand can help ensure you stay protected even if the wind takes off with one of your masks.
  • Plan ahead. Depending upon which activity you’re looking to try, there are ways to help minimize the risk of exposure and limit the possibility of contact with others. Knowing the busiest times of day for your particular location will help you to plan a visit during off-peak hours, meaning you are able to limit the chances of exposure a bit more.

Best Way to Approach Summer Activity Cancellations with Kids

Unfortunately, many of our favorite summer activities are suffering cancellations in light of the pandemic. For safety purposes, a lot of area parks, pools, and camps are making the tough decision to remain closed or cancel regularly scheduled programs. Though we understand it is the right choice during times like this, often our children may have a hard time grasping why they suddenly can’t attend their favorite camp or swim at the recreation center. Knowing how to approach the subject with our kids can help minimize the disappointment a bit.

While you may be tempted to hold off on discussing potential cancellations with your kids until you have a definitive answer, it may backfire to do so. It can often help children cope with potential disappointment if they are prepared to do so by discussing things up front. Let them know the chances of cancellations of their favorite activities and then brainstorm new ideas with them. Help them come up with a safe and fun alternative to look forward to in the event that their previous plans can’t come to fruition.

What to do When Your Favorite Summer Activities are Cancelled

If your planned summer activities were spoiled by the pandemic, it doesn’t mean you need to spend an entire season indoors with nothing to do. The beauty of the summer months brings with it a surplus of outdoor activity options, so put on your thinking caps and come up with some safe and fun alternatives to your previously scheduled plans. Some fantastic (and safe) outdoor family fun activities include:

  • Exploring trails and hiking new paths
  • Bike rides, roller blading, skateboarding, or scooter rides
  • Taking a scenic drive as a family
  • Plan and start a family garden
  • Playing sports, catch, tossing a frisbee, or flying a kite
  • Go camping or set up a tent in your back yard
  • Plan a scavenger hunt for kids

How to Encourage Social Interactions During Social Distancing

If your child appears to be struggling with being away from friends, reassure them that they are not alone and work with them on a solution to staying connected during social distancing. Remember, it’s still possible to plan fun activities with their friends via online chatting and video calls. Plan a fun game night for your child and their friends to connect and play virtually. Have a virtual slumber party where your child can chat with friends online while watching movies and having popcorn “together.” The most important thing to remember is that social distancing doesn’t mean we aren’t still connected. Get creative and remain vigilant about safety and you’ll help your family through the difficult times a bit easier.

Preparing Kids for Summer Camp Safety

Preparing Kids for Summer Camp Safety

With the return of the warmer months, it’s officially that time of year for kids again: summer camp season. In previous years, this time of year inspired excitement, learning activities galore, and a chance to socialize with friends our little ones hadn’t seen in weeks. Now, with the health risks of a lingering pandemic, summer camp is inciting a new set of emotions for families. For some, it’s still filled with excitement as our children look forward to seeing friends after an extended time away – but it’s also filling many parents with dread and anxiety as things slowly open back up. There seems to be one burning question: how do we keep our kids safe, yet allow them the much-needed camp time? Let’s take a look at the best way to plan for summer camp safety this year.

Planning for Summer Camp Safety

As facilities begin to reinstate their public programs – including summer camp activities – there will undoubtedly be questions surrounding the safety of staff and children as things phase back to pre-pandemic “norms.” In order to ensure our families and friends maintain the highest level of health and safety, there are a few precautionary measures that need to be observed. The best way to make sure this happens is to check local and national guidelines and recommendations as well as speak directly with camp staff prior to enrollment. Summer camp safety depends entirely on the diligence of our community members to remain in the loop and practice safe public habits.

Prepare Children for Safe Public Interactions

By now you’ve likely mastered the list of safe public health practices like handwashing, no face-touching, social distancing, and mask-wearing. Knowing these practices and ensuring our children practice them as well can be two different beasts altogether, however. Prior to the start of camp, be sure to reiterate with your children the required safe health practices such as:

  • Distancing. Teach your children to avoid unnecessary close contact or touching of other campers and staff. Keeping the 6-feet rule will help stop any potential spread.
  • Personal Hygiene. Be sure kids are washing hands frequently and properly. They need to be aware of restroom facility locations and how/when to use them for washing as needed.
  • Movement and Etiquette. As difficult as it may be, make sure children are practicing critical health etiquette actions like coughing or sneezing in an elbow (not hands) or in a tissue. Also, make sure they are aware they should avoid touching their faces as much as possible.

Stay Informed and in Contact with Camp Officials

In addition to general health and safety guidelines, summer camp safety will also depend on several other actions and needed supplies. Check with camp officials to understand the full list of regulations for your child’s safety and to understand the protocols in place. You can also check to see if there are any additional supplies or support needed to ensure the safety of all campers this summer. Stay informed, stay vigilant, and help keep our campers happy and healthy!

Post-Pandemic: Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe as Parks and Public Spaces Open Back Up

Post-Pandemic: Tips to Keep Kids Safe as Parks and Public Spaces Open Back Up

With the weather warming up and things beginning to open publicly again following the global COVID-19 pandemic, many residents have found themselves antsy to get out of the house and return to some of their favorite activities outside. While physical activity is one of the best ways to help keep our bodies healthy – as well as our children’s bodies – rushing out to utilize shared spaces too soon or while unprepared to use them responsibly, can spell trouble for some. So, how do you keep kids safe as their favorite public places begin opening back up?

Returning to Pre-Pandemic Public Activities

As things begin opening back up, many parents will likely be wondering if it is safe to let their little ones return to their favorite public hang-out and what safety precautions they should be taking to ensure they stay healthy. With so many unknowns surrounding the pandemic, it’s not just understandable, but necessary, that parents know the risks and the best ways to safeguard their children as they begin returning to pre-pandemic “norms.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, returning to your local public parks and recreational facilities can be an important part of maintaining physical health, as long as certain guidelines and precautions are followed in the process.

“Staying physically active is one of the best ways to keep your mind and body healthy. In many areas, people can visit parks, trails, and open spaces as a way to relieve stress, get some fresh air, and stay active… While these facilities and areas can offer health benefits, it is important that you follow (specified) steps to protect yourself and others from COVID-19,” the CDC explains.

How to Keep Kids Safe in Public after COVID-19

With our main concerns centered around the safety of our families, knowing how to shield our children from the dangers of the pandemic while opening back up to public interactions has been at the forefront of every parent’s mind lately. But just how do we allow our children to get back to their favorite public activities – safely?

The answer to that question begins with taking some informative steps first. As with anything, doing a bit of research before sending kids on a long overdue outdoor adventure can help ensure the highest chances of keeping them safe during uncertain times. Just as you wouldn’t send your child unaccompanied into a strange home, following the same mindset for post-pandemic public activity will help.

Taking Informative Steps

If you’re considering opening the doors to the great outdoors for your children now that the public is beginning to open up again, information is going to be your best line of defense. Staying informed of the latest information in your area will allow you to make the best possible decisions for your family as well as ensure you’re kept abreast of any new developments and safety protocols. In other words, stay safe by staying informed. Here are some of the most important ways you can stay in the loop of the latest news and guidelines surrounding public activity and your family’s safety:

  • CDC Guidelines. Before heading out to any public location, whether with or without your children, it’s critical that you know and understand the most current CDC recommendations for safety in public. Checking what the current guidelines are will ensure you are able to take all necessary precautions as noted by health officials.
  • Local Guidelines. In addition to the CDC’s recommendations, many communities and local authorities are imposing additional safety protocols in order to keep residents as safe as possible as we transition back to pre-pandemic public life. Check these regulations as outlined by the State of New Jersey Department of Health, as well as checking any additional regulations in place in your communities by looking at city social and governmental pages.
  • Individual Guidelines. In addition to government regulations and requirements, many public places may be imposing certain guidelines of their own. Before venturing out to a particular park or recreational space, contact them in advance to understand and prepare your family with proper safety protocol before leaving the house.

Keeping Your Family Safe with General Health Practices

Overall, if you’re ever confused or in doubt about a particular safety precaution or public guideline, it’s always safest to err on the side of caution. In general, however, the CDC recommends some basic health practices be utilized at times in public in order to maintain the safety of our families as we phase back into an open public life. Keeping these health practices are the CDC’s most recommended way to stay safe during this time:

  • Stay Close to Home. The further we travel for outdoor activity, the greater our risk becomes for being exposed to more potentially contaminated surfaces or infected individuals. Visiting recreational areas closer to home limits our travel and potential contact with these risks.
  • Continue to Maintain a 6 Foot Distance from Others. As difficult as this may be in some public situations, maintaining a safe distance (6 feet, according to the CDC) will limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19. If maintaining social distance is difficult (children in playground spaces), try to stick to places that are less crowded or visit during less busy times of the day.
  • Utilize Face Coverings. While face masks are not recommended for children under 2, older children should be using them while out in public areas – especially if there is difficulty maintaining a 6-feet-apart distance. This is one of the best ways to protect against potential contaminants.
  • Handwashing and Sanitizing. Another important step is to make sure children are aware of the need to properly wash and/or sanitize their hands as well as keeping their hands away from their faces while they’re out. If this is particularly difficult, you may want to choose an activity that doesn’t involve potentially contaminated areas like playground equipment.

By following the recommended safety guidelines of our public health officials and local regulatory commissions, it’s possible to phase back into public life safely. Stay vigilant with the recommendations and any changing requirements in order to keep kids safe and healthy as we begin to come out of this pandemic.

Play-Based Learning Activities to do at Home

At Tessa, we highly encourage learning through play and open-ended activities.  While distance learning presents new obstacles, we are finding creative ways to use the everyday objects that we have at home to continue learning.  Here are some learning hacks that you can try with using some common household objects. 


Math lessons in school often involve different kinds of manipulatives- like counting blocks- to help students visualize different mathematical concepts.  But there are so many substitutes that you can use for counters, including but not limited to: legos, beads, buttons, cheerios, goldfish, bottle caps, pom poms, paper clips, and clothespins.  This works best with any repetitive object that children can easily move and visualize. 

Addition and Subtraction

For children who are practicing single-digit addition or subtraction you can use a deck of playing cards (uno cards also work).  You would need to remove any face cards, or non-numerical cards, and then you can shuffle and choose two (or more) cards to add together.   


At home you can also practice grouping objects based on similarities and differences.  If you use a muffin or ice cube tray, along with a variety of small objects (this could even be some of the manipulatives listed above) students can form groups based on objects that have similar properties (shape, size, color, etc). 


There are other fun alternatives to writing on tablets or on paper.  Using dry erase markers, kids can write on glass doors, windows, or other glass surfaces- while being able to stand, sit, and move around.  Another method is to spread shaving cream on a tray or other flat surface that children can write in with their fingers. You can also combine these two methods and write in shaving cream on windows!

With some creative problem solving there are still plenty of ways to continue learning at home, while encouraging children to play and explore.  We hope that everyone has a relaxing, fun, and safe spring break and we look forward to seeing you again next week!

The Challenges of Distance Teaching Young Learners

Years ago, before I considered entering the field of education I always thought that teaching mostly consisted of planning lessons, standing in front of students, keeping the students’ behavior in line, and assessing the students. What I quickly learned once I became a teacher (back in 2002, for the record) is that what I have described is only about 20% of the job. In every school I have worked in, teachers are asked to do a lot—sometimes more than is possible! 

From the bottom of my heart, our teachers at Tessa International School have been doing twice of the above by providing distance learning to our families for the past few weeks.

Many parents naturally think that once the technology part is learned on the part of the teachers or that online teaching is ‘easy sailing.’ I just wanted to dispel this belief by sharing some of the unique challenges to teaching online that I have seen over the past three weeks.

1. Assessment

Teachers are assessing children live. They can’t depend on students to work for hours over many days on a particular skill and then assess it at a later point like they can in the classroom. They have to hope that the parents at home are helping, but they can’t depend on this in every case. In the end, teachers have few opportunities each week to assess students and are very limited in what they can assess by looking at them through a camera.

2. Keeping students interested and focused

Keeping students engaged is a regular challenge for teachers, but much more difficult when teachers are limited to a rectangular screen. I’ve seen teachers try funny voices, wear costumes, change backdrops, and use puppets. They do a great job! Let’s never forget that our youngest learners are two and a half…most young learners get distracted very easily…especially when there are many things to distract them in their homes! 

In the classroom it is often fairly easy to have students focus. In students’ homes, it’s virtually impossible to control distractions that are happening in people’s homes. 

3. Limited space

Besides needing to have everything ready for a lesson within a few feet, teachers literally only have the area of your child’s tablet or computer monitor to engage your students.

4. Lack of materials

Just as many parents may not have basic school materials at home (such as rulers, glue, construction paper), it is just as true for our teachers. Naturally, we can supply whatever teachers need, but sometimes teachers need something unexpected and ‘on the fly.’ All of this means that teachers have to plan even more carefully. You can’t take anything for granted…for instance, that a child at home will have a whiteboard and a whiteboard marker. Or clothespins.  

5. Missing context, interactions, and connections

Online classes are very limited in time and space. Teachers do their best to connect with students, but there is a long gap of time between students seeing each other and the teacher each day. It’s a bit like watching a movie for bursts of 20 minutes instead of having a live person in front of you. Maintaining teacher-student relationships isn’t impossible in this online environment, but it isn’t easy. 

6. Collaboration

Teachers at Tessa meet with the PYP Coordinator and each other regularly. It is much more challenging in this environment. Still, as a staff we meet once a week and Ms. Pooja and the teachers are meeting and working on Unit Planners. 

7. Direct instruction is essentially the opposite of the PYP

Worksheets and direct instruction is de-emphasized in the Primary Years Program. Collaboration, choice, and voice, are essential. These are all drastically scaled down in the online learning environment. 

8. Screen time.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, screen time for 2-5 year olds should be:  1 hour, broken into sessions of a maximum of 30 minutes. This makes everything even more challenging.

In short, our teachers are trying to emulate what we do in the classroom, a Herculean task, with some major limitations. We thank all of our teachers (and our parents who are helping) do the absolute best that they can.  A special thanks to Maritza Meza for some information for this blog 

5 Tips for Talking to Your Child About Coronavirus

5 Tips for Talking to Your Child About Coronavirus

With social distancing becoming the new temporary norm for families across the country, many parents have been searching for ways to explain the pandemic to their little ones in a way that will help them understand things better. Suddenly changing your routines can cause quite a bit of confusion and chaos in an otherwise well-oiled family schedule, but with so much riding on our ability to put our collective health and safety first, it’s important to find effective ways to help children understand not only why we are practicing social distancing, but also, how they can help stop the spread. If you’re looking for ways to help your child comprehend the changes brought about by COVID-19, here are a few tips to help:

1 – Do a Little Research

If you haven’t already, the best thing you can do before speaking to your children about the COVID-19 pandemic is to make sure you have the most accurate and up-to-date information about it first. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has an online link to inform the public about the outbreak and how they can help their families navigate through it.

2 – Explain the Facts and be Honest

Once you’ve done your research, talk to your children about what’s going on. Explain to them what COVID-19 is, how it affects the population, what happens if someone gets sick with the virus, and why we are trying to stop it from spreading. Children will be picking up all kinds of information from sources we may not realize (television, online videos, etc.), so make sure they get the facts from you first. Let them know there are many rumors out there, and you are there to answer any questions they may have.

3 – Avoid the Stigma

Try to avoid using any kind of negative connotations or accusatory tones, and simply let children know (at an age-appropriate level) that there is a virus that can cause sickness going around and we need their help to protect others. Sticking to the facts and not playing the blame-game when speaking with children will help them grasp their role in the community responsibilities of social distancing right now.

4 – Focus on Staying Calm

Since so much about this pandemic is different from our usual routines and involves many unknown aspects, it can surely be a scary time for some – especially children who don’t understand what’s going on. It’s important to speak with your kids and explain to them what’s going on, but it’s also important to be calm and patient with them when discussing the virus as well. Children can pick up on uncertainty in our tone and mannerisms, so do your best to be encouraging and calm when you speak with them.

5 – Empower Them with Responsibilities

One of the greatest ways to help children grasp the importance of social distancing and efforts to halt the spread of the virus is to empower them with a sense of responsibility. Explain to your child that they are helping to keep others healthy and break the spread of disease by practicing basic actions every day. Stress the importance of (proper) handwashing, coughing and sneezing into their elbows, distancing themselves from others who cough or sneeze, and to try and limit how much they touch their faces. Giving kids the power of knowledge and a sense of responsibility to help stop the spread of germs is the best way to explain the current social distancing situation.

Tessa International School

Office: (201) 755-5585 | Location: 720 Monroe St. Hoboken, NJ 07030