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Welcome Back! Let’s Find The Solutions To Our ‘Demics’

by | Aug 29, 2021 | RE@L StudentCorner | 0 comments


Forever. That’s how long we have anticipated the hopeful, late summer prospects of a new school year. ‘Back To School’ sales seem to begin earlier almost every year. With the onset of August and then Labor Day, our nation has a long-standing tradition of facing each new school year with resounding hope and excitement. Teachers and students alike feel the excitement in the air! Another new school year! Another chance to do it even better!

In our RE@LBlog ‘Thank You’ to educators last spring (RE@L Toasts All Heroes of School Year 2020-2021: “Hip Hooray & Thanks To You All!”), we recognized the many struggles that have come with the onset of a global pandemic. We honored the teachers and parents and students who responded in admirable if not heroic ways during the school last year. Just about everyone was somehow required to do things differently. It was complicated. It was messy. It was not for the faint of heart. What does school year 2021-2022 have in store for us?

For the coming school year, a traditional ‘Welcome Back’ seems entirely trite and hollow. If Charles Dickens were alive and peering into the start of this new school year, he might be more inclined to write A Tale Of Two ‘Demics’ instead. The sad difference today is for many it’s indeed become ‘the worst of days’ instead of ‘the best of days.’ Education will never be the same as a result. But as we always have, educators will find the best of times during the worst of times and make education better. 

No, this is hardly the time for the same old ‘Welcome Back.’ We would be doing a huge disservice to students and teachers if we did not acknowledge the unprecedented challenges of the day. Like no other school year, our educators, parents, and students find themselves staring down two ‘demics’ on the first day of school — both a PANdemic and an EPIdemic.

Clearly, the PANdemic has put everyone across the globe in a perpetual state of stress. After all, these ARE our schools, and the future is being educated in them. But we know that schools that function well, are those which acknowledge that all individuals, students and staff alike, are continuous learners. When children feel that they are in unsafe or dangerous schools or classrooms, the brain science will tell us the chances for solid, deep learning are severely compromised.

At RE@L, we believe that the personal safety of each and every student and educator should be the first consideration in the school setting. We applaud those decision-makers who are weighing the many variables today and choosing first and foremost to ensure a safe and welcoming learning environment for each learner, adults included.

 As human beings, we respond to stressors in different ways. Your RE@L Blogmeister, for instance, turns to food for comfort during stressful times. I have a lifelong collection of belts to show for it! How do you reduce YOUR stress? Unfortunately, too many teenage students are turning to nicotine as the alternative. And the time is ripe. For several years, big tobacco companies have been marketing new ways for young people to access nicotine. As a result, use of e-cigarettes and vaping is reaching EPIdemic levels among young people. 

In the spirit of ensuring safe and welcoming learning environments in our schools, we believe it is paramount to address the vaping EPIdemic in a proactive manner. During the 2021-2022 school year, we at RE@L, will continue our efforts to ‘go to scale’ with RE@L’s anti-tobacco product, 1Up On Vaping™. Designed with middle school students in mind, it’s a classroom-tested tool that engages the student in a graphic arts story where they become the main character. In their three-chapter journey, they engage with other characters as they learn.

1Up on Vaping™ includes several games and activities that support student learning. Included is a comprehensive teaching guide which also provides top-of-the line resources, including sample lesson plans, project ideas, and videos of health experts.

We can tackle these challenges.  We always have, and we always will. And it’s that first day of school each year, day filled with both the anxiety and hope for a great school year that reminds us why we do what we do and that we MUST make the best of times out of the worst of times.

From our team at RE@L:

Welcome back to a school year where we must address two ‘demics’ with RE@L solutions that positively shape the health of a nation. We can do this! 

Welcome back to a school year where the health and safety of every learner is the first order of business. We can do this!

Welcome back to a school year where children are surrounded and supported by adults with compassion and empathy. We ALWAYS do this!


Randy Nelson


Randy Nelson is a retired educator of 38 years. He served students as a high school speech, theater, and English teacher. He served colleagues as a director of curriculum and instruction; and, most recently he served the La Crosse, WI school district as its superintendent of schools. He has a strong leadership track record promoting choice and innovation via unique community partnerships. He currently serves RE@L, inc as its Director of Education.