Shopping for school supplies is the telltale sign that summer is coming to an end and we must start focusing on a new school year.

I have vivid memories of picking out new erasers, pencils, folders, and notebooks, while promising myself that this new year I will do all of my assignments and always listen to my teacher.

Each year during my elementary and middle school years I would put a Trapper Keeper into my mom’s cart and explain how I needed this cool product to ensure outstanding grades. Predictably, my mom would see the price and tell me to put it back. This denial of having an organizational tool that I guaranteed would produce school excellence did not squelch my enthusiasm for the new school year, however.


The restart and reopening of this particular school year, fall 2020, brings many questions, concerns, and anxiety far beyond a typical new school year for all stakeholders. But we can still have the same excitement of beginning a new school year as every other year. Let’s RENEW with enthusiasm.

In sum, there are three major reopening options for school districts across our state this fall:

  1. School buildings remain closed with students learning virtually
  2. Schools reopen in some hybrid fashion with students learning face to face and virtually
  3. Schools restart fully with students in classrooms

Under each scenario, there are identifiable pros and cons. As the decision-makers work out the details of return, there are sound educational practices that families must know to promote their child’s academic and behavioral success. These five considerations form a checklist for families. Remember the word RENEW.


Positive relationships are the hallmark of an effective teacher and essential to the success of students. Look for your teacher to create a bridge to home through culturally relevant projects and family educational goals. Building credible relationships is a two-way street and families must be engaged. Know your teacher’s contact information and use it on a regular basis to ask questions about school content, expectations, technology concerns, and resources.

Expert in Communication

With the rapid movement of changes in these times, communication is imperative. Schools are experiencing novel challenges and the amount of information might seem overwhelming. Ask questions, be persistent in understanding the impact on your child, and address learning obstacles with your school. This fall there is no such thing as over communicating – you must be in regular contact with your school to enjoy the full benefits of your child’s education.

Necessary Technology

Students must have Wi-Fi and laptops ready to go regardless of your school’s reopening decision. The opportunity gap widens between students when some students are fully connected with technology and others have limited to no access to technology. Teachers are using video conference, online grading, virtual learning activities, and many other daily resources that all require knowledge and access to achieve. Become familiar with your teacher’s technology preferences and practice with your child. Ask your school for resources and assistance if you lack regular Wi-Fi or technology equipment.

Emphasis on Health

There is a whole new standard to cleanliness. You should notice the difference visually in temperature checks, hand sanitizer stations, and social distancing. Also, the pleasing scents of the building will indicate special attention to clean environments. Know the expectations of your school and talk to your child about their daily schedule. Anxiety and stress have increased for teachers, administrators, and students. Instilling a clear and consistent routine helps to reduce some of these feelings.

What’s the Plan?

Your school may very well adapt changing plans of action several times before the start of the school year and even as the school year is operating. Fully knowing the plan is essential as families juggle work schedules, activity calendars, and other family obligations. Let your voice be heard about your school’s plan – your influence matters. Students maximize learning when there is structure to their environment, high expectations, and support to achieve. Comprehension of your school’s plan for learning provides confidence to master these traits.

I was entering my first year in college when I finally gave up asking my mom for a Trapper Keeper. Not having a Trapper Keeper was very disappointing, but did not truly diminish my joy of starting college. The same can be stated for this fall. School will look different, there will definitely be some disappointments. But remembering RENEW will greatly assist in academic and behavioral success for all students. Let’s RENEW with enthusiasm!

This blog is co-written by Dr. Steve Gerner & Professor Eugene Pitchford III. Both are instructors within Concordia’s School of Education and share backgrounds as administrators within K-8 schools (parochial and public). The two authored a book, Superhero Educator, in 2018 that highlights the qualities of successful educators.


Multiple media outlets visited campus yesterday to capture these Concordia professors’ expert advice. Click on the images below to watch the segments.




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