Back To School?
Masks, Sanitizer, Temperature Checks, and Online Learning… Oh My!
By KC Estenson, GoNoodle CEO
As you can imagine, Back to School is a pretty big deal around here. Of course, GoNoodle’s focus on movement and mindfulness content for kids is the main driver of that, but many of us are also parents of school-age kids and former educators ourselves. So, we’re personally dealing with the same struggles as many of you are right now – and feeling the same empathy around the difficulties of being a teacher in 2020. Online learning and new, ever-changing school protocols have all of us fumbling into a unique and much-harder-than-normal start to this new school year.
Children are missing their friends, and living without the social structure and immersion they crave. Online learning is playing an important role, but it’s no substitute for in-person interaction – for kids, parents, or teachers. We all need each other, and we miss each other. Parents are bending under the weight of working, parenting, and remote learning. Teachers are stressed not knowing what this year will hold, not being able to welcome their classes back with open arms, and having to learn myriad new remote learning technology tools while preparing class plans that fit for remote or in-class learning. It’s frustrating for all!
Here’s the primary thing I know: teachers are first responders too. Every day, they are on the front lines asking crucial questions of how schools will stay clean, how they will keep students distanced and learning, and how they will avoid spreading the virus or getting sick themselves. They are watching the news and seeing school openings that sometimes lead to quick closures. Often they are working without the best PPE or in schools that don’t have the space to give them an environment suitable for social distancing. It’s scary and there are no easy answers; but so many of our educators and administrators are bravely forging ahead through this crisis to help our children and families get through it all. To those of you fighting this good fight – please know that you heroes to us!
Even with all of the amazing efforts going on at schools across the country, no hero can do it alone. So, our focus at GoNoodle this year is to offer you all the help we can. Over the summer, we surveyed educators and parents to see how we can best help and offer options to all of the people out there trying to help kids through this time – whether in a classroom, at home, or with one of the many hybrid models of learning popping up across the country.
Teachers are worried about having space in the classroom to accommodate movement and hands-on learning, the mental well-being of their students, and creating community and human connection. While parents are worried about how they can best help their kids, support teachers, and keep working through it all. This quote from our survey sums it up best, “It was very difficult to keep the focus of all the students while we were in our online Meets. I held two per day and not only was it distracting (pets, siblings, noise, etc.) our sense of class community that we’d worked so hard at seemed to be gone,” said one educator. “I even had a parent message me that she had cried watching how I was trying and the kids just weren’t responding the same as she’d seen in the classroom.”
So, in short, how do we offer our kids the right set of tools for their everyday lives during this pandemic? The best practices we see revolve around two simple things: consistency and celebration. We all know that kids do best when their days have structure. But, they also thrive on having fun, playing, and moving their bodies. GoNoodle should be able to help you with both! This year we are focusing on programming our videos by time of day to reflect the different needs of kids from the early morning to the middle of the day to bedtime. And, more often, we’ll be highlighting our videos that are meant to help alleviate stress and anxiety so we can help kids tap into their feelings and let the grownups who love them be there to listen when they do.
We are here for you, educators and parents alike, to help you find ways to spark joy, create connections, and build consistency for our kids. Time and time again, our experience shows that (at it’s best) GoNoodle is a unifier – one of the things that bring kids of different backgrounds together to learn and have fun. So, we remain focused on helping kids navigate the difficulties of the world today while connecting with each other and building connections with their peers, parents, and teachers. Using dance, movement, and breathing exercises in your everyday routine is a key way to keep kids mindful, active, and engaged through this unprecedented time.
None of this is easy. We are all navigating through an imperfect plan that is constantly changing as new roadblocks get thrown our way. As a parent, and the CEO of GoNoodle, I am with you during this time. We will continue to be a resource for parents, kids, and educators. We will continue to provide inclusive learning tools – and add new activities and videos that we hope will help during this school year. We are working on new ways to have fun and get moving in and out of the classroom. If you want to share your thoughts on what you need from GoNoodle this year, and haven’t yet, please take our educator or family survey today. Our kids are the future – and we will stand with you focused on their needs so we can get through this together.