Over the next week or two, schools will be re-opening their doors to students, and it’s going to be a huge challenge for everyone involved. So, exactly how do we identify and respond to these unique challenges?
We’ve put together a list of tips and advice on how to prepare for students heading back to school, whilst taking safeguarding and their well-being into account. Everyone at school will need support in some form or other – and that includes the teachers who have, let’s not forget, continued to work throughout this whole crisis.
Listen to your students
As a teacher, many of your students may be feeling anxious about the transition, understandably so. You need to provide reassurance and be sympathetic to their feelings. After all, they might have faced additional pressures and stresses whilst working from home that you’re not aware of. At this time, it’s important to first focus on your students’ emotions rather than practicalities. It’s only natural for them to be apprehensive about returning to school. Some pupils may be reluctant to share things or even follow guidelines during this time, which can impact further on their safety and learning and those around them.
Once your pupil has had the opportunity to tell you about his or her feelings, they can be encouraged to focus on what they can do to manage their concerns. Ask them how they are feeling about the pandemic and acknowledge this without minimising or dismissing their concerns. Try to have open conversations by doing different activities such as reading or drawing together. This will help to break the ice and allow them to express themselves better.
A problem-solving approach can be particularly helpful with older children. Discuss the issues and see if you can come up with a series of possible solutions, and then select the ones which you think will work best for them.
Look to the Positives
Encourage your child to talk about the things they love about going to school. Of course, every child will have different views, but the list will likely include: Seeing their favourite teachers and friends, and participating in games and activities which only take place in school.
Share the info!
This may seem like common sense, but it’s important to provide as much information about returning to school as possible. Things will probably be quite different when they return to school, so sharing timetables and any planned special activities will really help provide a sense of stability.
Safety information about what the school is doing to ensure the safety of their students will help reassure those feeling anxious.
Try and get back into a routine when it comes to school. Start moving your child’s waking and bedtimes closer to those of a regular school day. Ensure uniforms or school clothes are washed and ready to wear on the first day of school. Remind children of the school day routines that they will be returning to shortly. You could spend some time reflecting on the new routines that they have enjoyed during the national lockdown. Consider whether some of these could be carried over into the ‘going to school routine’.
Using some or all of the strategies we’ve mentioned will help you and your child / students to manage the transition back to school well. If you feel that you need further help you can talk to your child’s teacher or the school leadership team, and your GP. Don’t be reluctant to seek help when and where necessary. You’d be surprised by how many children and adults have been adversely affected by the situation – perhaps everyone has!
Recognise the challenges
Of course, everyone has had different experiences of lockdown and we’ve seen some families struggling with financial hardship and having to cope with mental health and wellbeing issues. Many families have felt isolated and many others have had to cope with loss and bereavement. Bearing this in mind, it’s imperative that teachers and other school staff are aware of the varied challenges families have had to face during these unusual times. Regularly engaging with pupils and their families will help you find out any issues or concerns, and in times like these this effort will be much appreciated.
Engage with your pupils
Talking to children about any concerns they may have, what they liked about lockdown, and what they didn’t like about lockdown is important. Integrating this into a group activity could be even more effective. This could be done informally by integrating it with the register, for example.
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