The great part of being an educator is the "fresh start" every September and the school year's cyclical nature. We can reset and reunite with energy and enthusiasm for what's next. As a place to learn and grow, schools allow us to reflect on ourselves as human beings. What role do we play as community members? How can we be our best selves? We haven't experienced a reopening like this yet….ah, here appears the growth mindset as opposed to a fixed one. If we work harder and smarter, we will be able to meet the year's challenges successfully. This year marks my 28th year as an educator. I am just as excited about the first day of school as I was in 1992!
These days, however, we all must look inward to find strength. As humans, we navigate each day as best we can, and some days will be better than others. I am maneuvering through this challenging time as the mother of a college student and an elderly parent's daughter. Complex thoughts whirl about in my head daily, but I focus on the positivity and joy in my life. Of course, my fears are there, but I place my trust in the community leaders' hands and hear the words of resilience from my mother echoing in my ears each day I rise up to face the challenges ahead of me.
Many of you know of my mother or have heard of her struggles in Nazi-occupied Greece during World War II. Through this pandemic, I have called her for advice and drawn strength from her resilience and kindness. Closing in on 90 years old, I marvel at the life she experienced and the optimistic outlook she radiates. Years ago, when I was in the middle of a moment of frustration, my mother told me a story about how she learned to knit as a child. It was a matter of necessity to weather the winters during the war. It took her weeks to perfect the loops and patterns needed to make mittens, hats, and gloves. She couldn't get it right. Perhaps it was her small hands? Poorly developed fine motor skills? Regardless, my mother decided she would work daily on this effort. Loop by loop and line by line, she found success and found satisfaction in the finished product. This mindset is woven throughout the many life lessons needed, big or small.
At this time in our lives, we have to focus on new routines and unlearn old ones. Set a plan with your family, and take time to review and revise your routines. There will be a lot to process and learn for the first month of school. Patience will be at a premium, and flexibility will be mandatory. As partners, we have come so far, and I applaud our community's dedication to one another. It hasn't been an easy road over the last six months. Still, we set our minds to reopening school—in a safe and comprehensive way—with focus and determination. September 10th, we will celebrate our epic return to campus. I am hopeful that we can gain strength from others on the days when we may not be able to feel positive and buoy others when we have extra in our "reserves." Join me, our faculty and staff, and make this a tightly-knit web of support, care, and love this fall. We are stronger together, and I am confident that if we look inward at what we can each do to support this effort, it will be well worth it.
As we prepare for the start of the academic year, many families may wonder what role they can play in our planning. To be successful, it is imperative that we work together as a community.
Here are some ways you can help your children with getting ready for school:
- Work with your child to help them understand physical distancing; show them what 6 feet away looks like in public settings.
- Practice putting face coverings/masks on and off correctly.
- Teach your child to wash their hands for a full 20 seconds; choose a treasured childhood song to help them track their time.
- Teach your child to use hand sanitizer properly, and explain the importance of not putting it in their mouth.
- Practice coughing & sneezing into their elbow. Make it a game where they receive a special treat after doing it correctly a few times.
- Begin taking your child's temperature regularly, so they are used to it once school begins.
- Introduce bedtime and morning routines that will help them start and end their day feeling confident and positive.
While the above tips are most appropriate for children Preschool–Grade 8, they really can be applied to any age group—even adults! The way we’re experiencing and interacting with the world is still new to us, so it takes practice. My biggest tip is to do all of the action items mentioned above with your children. Let’s lead with empathy and role model resilience, continuing to be examples of positivity for them!
Thank you for helping to support our in-person school efforts this fall. While we may not be sure what this will look like, we are sure that we are one strong community ready to seek out ways to make our school better than ever!
About the Author
Georgia S. Zaiser
Far Hills Country Day School Head of School
With over 25 years of experience in independent school education and a vast majority of that time at Far Hills Country Day School, Georgia S. Zaiser was named Head of School on July 1, 2020. Since February 2020, Mrs. Zaiser served as the Acting Head of School at FH, guiding the school’s community through the COVID-19 pandemic and forging new ground by working with faculty and staff to launch and implement distance learning successfully.
As a graduate of Dickinson College, and having received her M.S. Ed from Dowling College, Mrs. Zaiser began her career in an urban school setting in Northwest Chicago. Her interest in taking a leadership role in the field of education grew at the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools’ Leadership Institute, where she learned about serving, inspiring, and leading others. During her career, Mrs. Zaiser has proudly served and thrived in a variety of leadership roles, including Faculty Mentor, Vertical Team Leader, Grade Level Coordinator, History Department Chair, Head of Upper School, and Assistant Head of School.
As the Head of School at FH, Mrs. Zaiser will prepare for the community’s return to campus and any subsequent challenges in light of COVID-19. She looks forward to reuniting the community with the opening of a state-of-the-art science facility and renovated/upgraded Upper School classrooms, as well as reigniting school spirit for the school’s alumni, including her two sons, to inspire students and keep Falcon pride alive and well.