Back to the Classroom
KATY, TX -- Back-to-school supplies were a bit different this year for 12-year-old Audrey Pan. Along with a day planner, an array of pens, and a thick notebook, Audrey added face masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes.
“I’m not sure how it’s going to completely work,” said Audrey of her middle school in Hacienda Heights, California. “How many kids are going to be in each classroom? Are we going to have a table where we sit together?”
Audrey, like many across the country, spent the last school year in a virtual classroom interacting with other students and teachers only via a computer screen. Going back to in-person learning with potential restrictions only added to her anxiety.
In Katy, Texas, Joshua and Gloria Flores have two teenage sons, Beau and Levi, who returned to their respective schools on August 18. “As soon as I found out the boys would have to go back to school in person, concern and worry set in,” Gloria said. “One thing that is always in the back of my mind is whether or not all students will follow safety protocols. It's only been five days since the beginning of school, and my husband and I have already received notifications from the school that there have been students exposed to the virus. As a result, we have been on alert for any symptoms that our boys might develop.'
“As students prepare to return, they will be facing a host of intensified challenges,” said Anthious Boone, an elementary school principal in Pennsylvania. He cited mask-wearing and learning how to socialize again with peers as some of these challenges.
But parents can help prepare their children for what may be a tough transition.
“As parents endeavor to help their children cope with potential back-to-school anxiety,” Boone said, “it is absolutely imperative that they stay well-connected with both the school and their children.”
Audrey’s parents, John and Michelle Pan, freely email teachers with questions and regularly talk with Audrey about her day. They also designate every Saturday afternoon as family time. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, they look for practical, Bible-based advice to help with any issues or concerns.
“We review how to display Christian qualities, such as love and patience, and have role-playing sessions to listen to how Audrey would react to stressful or dangerous situations,” said John. “This has helped Audrey feel confident about returning to school.”
While coronavirus variants have stoked pandemic anxieties, the Pans have endeavored to not overlook other challenges their daughter may face.
One of their favorite resources is jw.org, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses that is free to all. Topics like “What’s a Real Friend?” and “Beat a Bully Without Using Your Fists” are addressed there in a video series for young people that Audrey recommends to everyone.
“The website has some really cool information that has helped me prepare for back-to-school,” she said. “I think it can really benefit any student who is nervous about going back. They should check it out!”