Understanding the New Return to School Anxieties


Let’s begin with some humor:

1. “Respect your parents. They passed school without Google.”–Anonymous

2. “Education can get you the only thing that really matters in today’s world—an assigned parking space.” — Gene Perret

3. “School is a building which has four walls with tomorrow inside.”–Lon Watters

4. “If you think your teachers are tough, wait ‘til you get a boss.” — Bill Gates

5. “When I was a schoolchild, we repeated the refrain: Bars on the windows, bars on the doors, next thing you know, they’ll be bars on the floors.”

Unmasking a Deeper Fear: Understanding the anxieties associated with returning to school.

August traditionally signals the start of a new academic year, a time filled with the anticipation of new learning opportunities and reunions with school friends. But as we stand at the brink of the 2023 school year, the education landscape bears additional burdens of worry beyond the academic sphere. Parents, teachers, and students wrestle with fears that are, regrettably, becoming a part of our new normal.

Anxieties about School Shootings

The fear of school shootings has become a harsh reality that students, parents, and educators must face. The concern over safety inside school grounds has escalated, sparking a pressing need for comprehensive strategies to combat this menace. Schools have responded by implementing security measures, and there has been a growing emphasis on educating students about emergency drills. However, while necessary, these steps can contribute to heightened stress levels in the school community.

The Fear of a New Pandemic

Having lived through the unprecedented times brought on by COVID-19, the fear of another pandemic is palpable. While the global community has come a long way in managing the existing health crisis, the possibility of a new, unknown viral threat stokes anxiety. This uncertainty leads to hypervigilance around health and hygiene measures, adding tension to the back-to-school transition.

Concerns about Crime and Shootings Near Schools

Increased violent crime rates in certain areas add worry to the fear of returning to school. Parents and students alike are grappling with concerns about the journey to and from school and the safety of their surroundings. A neighborhood’s crime rate can directly influence a family’s decision about in-person schooling versus remote learning, further complicating this complex choice.

Addressing the Anxieties

The challenge ahead lies not just in acknowledging these fears but actively working towards mitigating them. Schools need to continue partnering with local law enforcement to ensure a secure environment and consider employing school counselors or psychologists who can provide students with emotional support.

Encouraging open discussions about these fears can also help. Students should feel comfortable sharing their concerns with teachers and parents, and they need to be reassured that their fears are being taken seriously and addressed.

Preparedness is key. Comprehensive emergency preparedness plans must be in place, regularly reviewed and rehearsed. These steps, coupled with the consistent enforcement of safety measures, can significantly ease these anxieties.

Broader societal measures to combat gun violence and promote community safety are imperative. Collaborative efforts between schools, local communities, and policy-makers can pave the way toward safer environments for our students.

The Students’ Perspective

Children of all ages are grappling with a combination of excitement and fear. While reuniting with friends and returning to a semblance of normalcy is thrilling, there’s an underlying worry about readjusting to the school environment after prolonged periods of remote learning.

They are concerned about the new academic challenges that may arise, considering many have experienced learning loss because of the fluctuating quality of online education. Despite all precautions, there’s a pronounced fear of potential COVID-19 exposure, bringing forth anxiety previously unseen in these young minds.

The Teacher’s Perspective

Teachers, the pivotal pillars of our education system, are not immune to these waves of anxiety. Balancing imparting quality education and maintaining a safe classroom environment has never been more challenging. The driving forces behind those challenges are:

  • Violence in and outside of school.
  • Poor salaries.
  • Increased administrative paperwork.
  • Lingering worries about a resurgence of COVID-19 or other diseases.

The Parent’s Perspective

For parents, the dichotomy of emotions is all too real. While they recognize the importance of social interactions and conventional classroom learning for their child’s overall development, they can’t help but worry about the potential risks that come with school reopenings.

There is a need for more school bus drivers in Colorado across many communities nationwide. Because of shifting populations, Boards of Education have closed school buildings in some communities because the number of school children at those schools has drastically declined.

If more than these problems are needed, there is the added worry that there is a shortage of teachers. There are various reasons for these shortages. Perhaps the major reason for teacher shortages is that college graduates want higher-paying jobs than school districts will pay.

Moving Forward Together

As schools reopen this August, it’s crucial for all involved – students, parents, and teachers – to acknowledge these anxieties and work through them together. School districts and authorities must implement strong, supportive measures to ensure students’ safety and academic growth and offer resources to support mental health.



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