Michelle Ciulla Lipkin: Back to School

For the fifth part of this series, we asked our experts to reflect upon the things we need to consider as we prepare to reopen schools this fall. “What human, organizational, and/or technological infrastructures do we need to put into place to support sustained periods of learning at home and/or more frequent handoffs between teachers and caregivers over the course of the school year? To what or whom do we need to pay closer attention as we plan for the reopening of schools? What might we be overlooking?”

We must be prepared to listen

Michelle Ciulla Lipkin

Michelle Ciulla Lipkin is the Executive Director of the National Association for Media Literacy Education.

Let’s all take a moment to celebrate the teachers and administrations who somehow kept our kids learning as our world faced countless challenges over the last several months. After that moment of gratitude, though, we need to recognize what lies ahead.

When the 2020-2021 school year begins, we will all be different. Whether students return to a classroom or continue distance learning, students will be processing an experience that changed their lives and we need to be ready. There may be an instinct to move on from the pandemic, but we will have to fight this impulse. Students have been internalizing messages for months, and we will need to give them the space to feel, reflect, and process those messages. Their parents, neighbors, family members, teachers, and the news media have all been talking, and children have been listening. They know we have been scared, angry, and unsure. They have heard the sound of fear in our voices. They have heard the death count from coronavirus rise on the news. They have seen the protests after George Floyd’s death. They have faced the fact that even the trusted adults in their lives don’t always know everything will be all right.

While the urge to get back to normal will be strong, we must recognize that what was normal no longer exists, especially for our children. We must give them the chance to talk, to write, and to create about their experiences. We cannot overlook the emotional toll this has taken on them. We must be prepared to listen. The way children remember 2020 will depend a lot on how we help them heal.


See more posts in this series:

Voices on the Future of Childhood

Akimi Gibson | Elisha Smith Arrillaga | Esther Wojcicki | Gregg Behr
Michelle Ciulla Lipkin | Molly McMahon | Robert Tom Kalinowski | Tom Liam Lynch