We hope this finds you well. At this stage, it looks like we are heading back to face-to-face teaching much earlier than anticipated. Depending on which state or territory you live in, the pending (or current) return of students to schools is an exciting time for students, teachers and, for possibly different reasons, families. Although easing back into normal ‘life-as-we-used-to-know-it’ is a sweet relief, it is not without its challenges. Some children and teenagers will approach the return to school with varying degrees of trepidation, concern and anxiety, but there are plenty of strategies and tips schools can apply to support students. This week on School Stream, we round up the best of the strategies from around the web. 

We value schools. We want to help keep your community connected. Watch a quick demonstration of School Stream in action or keep reading for our round-up for best practice research to support students returning to school.

What kind of things are kids worried about?

Many friendships will have dissolved or changed while schools were closed. Kids and teens of all ages will have concerns about returning to school and finding their way with their friendship groups after such a long time apart. For younger children, it may feel like school has been closed ‘forever’, and this is in part because children perceive time differently to adults, so it’s no surprise some feel nervous about going back. 

“This is not like going back to school after the holidays. They’ve been disconnected from their friends for such a long time.” ABC Life 15 May 2020

Kids might also feel worried about other things such as forgetting their school routine, or they may have other, more specific COVID-related concerns. Other worries might include concerns about social distancing (“Can I play tips or is it too close?”), feeling sick while at school, separation anxiety after being home for so long, or feelings of general uneasiness. 

How teachers support students 

Teachers and schools have been extraordinary in their efforts to keep a continuity of learning, connection and community for their kids while delivering a blend of online and face-to-face teaching. Most teachers are looking forward to seeing their classrooms full of life again but, as you would know, the first few weeks may well be focussed on seeing where students are with their work, re-establishing relationships and reminding kids what it’s like to be at school. In other words, it might be a while before everyone is feeling settled in and school life is back to normal.  However, there are plenty of things schools can do to support students transitioning back to school. Here are some of the best tips School Stream found from around the web. 

  • Communicate early, communicate often

We all know the importance of communication. Schools who use a consistent method of communication will keep families/caregivers in the loop and empower them to support their children in the way they think is best. Some suggestions from experts include:

  • Prepare students and their families for what will be the same and what will be different, ie: the library, play equipment, bubblers and the canteen will be closed, but the timetable will still be the same. (Teacher Magazine)
  • Explain what steps the school is taking regarding COVID-19 procedures and protocols. (Teacher Magazine)
  • Send a timetable home via your school communication app so families/caregivers can prepare their kids for what is happening each day. Children thrive on routine to make them feel safe. There’s been lots of chopping and changing lately, so the stability of a timetable can only be helpful to soothe any fears about what is coming next. 
  • Create a specified drop-off zone for younger students 

Designate a ‘drop-off’ gate for younger students who are particularly worried about returning to school. Station a familiar teacher and some senior students who can welcome students and even take them to their classroom if they really need a hand. This is a practical tip we have heard many schools are using with great success to ease the transition and separation from families/caregivers.

  • Celebrate the gains and the wins

Have you ever seen a kindergarten class log-on to computers during the first few weeks of Term 1? You would know that if you can organise a class of five-year-olds to log-on successfully before the lesson is finished it is an achievement that wins high-fives in the staffroom. If students have been lucky enough to access a laptop and the internet to use for homeschooling, teachers may see some improvements on the IT-front when students return to face-to-face teaching. And across the board, irrespective of access to tech, students have had to become independent, self-directed and self-motivated to complete their schooling from home over the past few months – all wins worth celebrating.

  • Take care of yourself

Teachers have been at the frontline for weeks and there is no argument that COVID-19 has placed huge demands on teachers and schools. And while students may have plenty of questions and worries about COVID-19, it’s likely teachers may have their own too. It has never been more important to look after yourself. 

Teachers’ wellbeing is not only a vital outcome in itself, it is a means to other vital  outcomes, such as students’ learning and wellbeing.” Teacher Magazine 7 April 2020

Key evidence-backed strategies thought to be particularly helpful for teachers while navigating the ever-changing COVID-19 situation are: maintaining social support systems and adaptability. Read the article at the above link to Teacher Magazine for more details. 

We hope you have enjoyed our overview of strategies from the web. We wish all students, teachers, and schools the best for a smooth transition back. And of course, thank you for all you have done – and continue to do. 

We’re here to support you and are available via Live Chat if you have any questions. Thank you for your ongoing support. Take care.

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