My five-year-old is supposed to start kindergarten next year. As we prepare for school next fall, we have so many questions about our new reality, and we are working to educate our little scholar about what she might expect. COVID-19 has added some new challenges. Kindergarten prep events are canceled. Classroom visits are canceled. We are prepping her on our own.

5 Things We Should be Prepared For

1. Hello, Generation Zoom (Zoomers)

We are redefining classrooms around the world. E-learning, distance learning, online learning—whatever the buzzword, it’s here. And it’s likely to stick around in some form forever. As a parent, I knew technology would define my daughter’s life, but did not expect it to begin at age 5. Our students are already learning how to manage this world via Zoom meetings. She and many others will always be part of Generation Zoom. I believe this type of learning will be part of her education in a formalized and steady way for the remainder of her educational life.

2. Classrooms are going to be more spread out and structured

Social distancing is not going away any time soon. Short of a medical miracle we are going to be experiencing our new realities until we have a vaccine for COVID-19. We should start talking about the realities of what classrooms might look like. I think there will be more formal spaces for individualized learning, and less close group work is a strong potential. Less sharing of books, scissors, crayons, etc. More curriculum hosted in a students’ classroom versus moving between spaces. Facemasks. Eye protection. Constant handwashing.

These are just a few thoughts I have had based on what the science is telling us. I believe my daughter’s kindergarten experience will be vastly different from the circle-time, handholding, sweet introduction to daily learning that it should be. We have so much to prepare her for from an educational standpoint, and now I hold my breath for the new social norm we will need to instill before the end of our summer.

3. Intermittent pauses and more distance learning

I think we are in the first lockdown of many over the next year or so. I would expect that there will be a steady integration of technology and online learning in my daughter’s kindergarten experience to alleviate transition issues related for sudden closures. While the in-person classroom is, without a doubt, what will truly shape our children’s’ social-emotional futures, the online classroom will also play a role in connecting home to school and vice versa. We must adapt and learn to build community in ways we are not used to.

It’s also important that we start talking to parents about what their home classrooms are going to look like next fall to prepare for these transitions. Dedicated learning spaces will require proper furniture that promotes engagement, an environment that embraces focus, and Zoom quality lighting. Our homes are going to have to start integrating tools that allow for their student to be successful at home. This is not cheap. We should do more as communities to help those in need. Homes will be temporary classrooms and we need to be ready for that.

4. Classroom structure is going to be hard

This is my biggest fear. Some students will have been out of a classroom for 4-5 months. Going back to this structured environment, an institutional environment, is going to exhaust our educators as they try to bring balance back to student lives. Kids are running around their homes, playing outside, taking breaks between activities- things not necessarily condoned in a K-12 space. I think we can combat this by taking a good look, right now, at classrooms as we know them.

Let’s say goodbye to sitting all day. Standing desks and wobble stools will be essential to help students to re-enter the school atmosphere without burning up on re-entry. These same solutions might also help a few educators as well to manage what I can assume will be chaos, acting out, and frequent emotions.

5. Together, our kids are going to be great

This is going to be difficult and emotional on so many levels. It’s a defining moment in the lives of people around the world. And while we hate to see what is happening to our economies, our home life, and our vacation plans, we can embrace the moments we are able to share. I spent 30 minutes helping with a preschool activity last week, something I would probably have normally missed out on. We sang. We laughed. We learned the letter “W.” I will cherish that moment.

We must work together to make this work out for the benefit of our children and our communities. Let’s share resources and ideas. Provide financial opportunities and grants to families that need help creating their own educational spaces. It is as simple as sharing your Wi-Fi connection with a neighbor in need. And together, we are going to come out of this with a fresh perspective and appreciation for the things we have accomplished. Generation Zoom will go back to their classrooms. They will remember this forever. They will be great.

Be safe. Be well. Be prepared. Let’s be realistic about our next 12-18 months and how it will impact our next 12-18 years, and together, lets help our students navigate this moment as the challenge of a lifetime.