The long-awaited return to school has arrived and with it comes a mix of emotions and a change to daily routines, school environments and socialising as structured learning recommences.
Feelings of excitement as the children race through the doors, with some possibly overcome with anxiety as the classroom looks and feels different, friendships may have changed, there may be feelings of sadness for loved ones that have been lost.
With new uniforms, rucksacks, and pencil cases at the ready, all the hustle and bustle of the school run rushes back into our daily lives. Continuing to provide support, a listening ear, stability and not be over critical is all anyone can do, taking a day at a time as we adjust to the new ways post COVID-19 has brought to the classroom.
To regain some structure for the return to school some schools have developed their own Recovery Curriculum as a support arm for teaching staff and pupils. This blog covers some of the elements you might like to consider and we have also shared a recent think piece by Barry Carpenter ‘A Recovery Curriculum: Loss and Life for our children and schools post pandemic’ which takes a closer look at the Recovery Curriculum and suggests five levers to build this around, for a relationships-based approach to support children at this strange time.
Structure and routine
As children transition into their new school term, it is important to be mindful that they may need some time to adjust to a more conditioned space of discipline within the classroom environment. This includes using their manners, being kind and thoughtful to others and interacting once again with not only friends and their teachers but their own thoughts, feelings, and brain power! The affects from the school closures will have impacted children in so many ways, yet from an academic perspective it may take some time to gain an understanding of the true effects of the skills gap from trying to learn from home.
No parent could have anticipated the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and learning how to adapt to a new way of life with lockdown. Then adding to the never-ending list of daily tasks, was the role of parent and also teacher. Whilst some will have mastered home schooling and had strict routines, others may not have done so and as a result some children may be suffering with a lack of concentration, finding themselves struggling to learn again or may miss their parents. Sometimes many things don’t go to plan but having a routine and structure whilst assessing the new needs of the children and their academic ability is imperative now more than ever before.
As the classroom becomes alive again, emotions will go hand in hand with the new reality of what life has now become, not only at home and socially but at school as well. Many children will have experienced emotions that maybe they have never felt before, following the sudden and dramatic change to all our lives when the pandemic hit.
From an early age it is vital that children learn key life skills and gain emotional strength to support their growth and development, a bit like a jigsaw. Unfortunately for some children they may not have all their jigsaw pieces and the journey may be harder. For others new emotions like anger or frustration (at not being able to play out or see loved ones) or anxiety (about how the world has changed), may have reshaped their personality and they can’t figure out how to get their jigsaw back together again.
It is important for a child to understand that it is never too late to deal with how they feel but the key element is acceptance first to then build coping mechanisms on how to deal with their emotions. Why not encourage children to build their own mini support bubbles? (Whether that be with a teacher, friend, mum, dad, grandma, grandad, carer or a professional). The child could draw their bubble, so it is visually there for them to refer to when they need it most.
There is no limit on how many bubbles you have as long as they provide the support you need, whether that be a good listener, someone to help you see rationally again, shed a few tears with or accept it’s ok to laugh even if you do feel sad. Instilling mental wellbeing techniques like this in children and young people will help them with mental health challenges as they grow up.
A new term and for many children they won’t have had the joy of playing with their friends over the summer and so could have lost a friendship that was once there. It is important that we encourage new and old friendships and understand what stage they are at, as the children adapt to being in a larger group again. There may be signs of bullying or some children may need more nurturing or encouragement than others as they learn how to interact with one another again.
Making friends can be extremely fun for some children, yet very daunting for others especially if a child is slightly shy or not very outgoing. Other children may think they are being unfriendly or behaving strangely and not want to play with them at breaktimes or sit next to them. Friendships provide a bond like no other, that listening ear or shoulder to cry on.
It's important to remember you don’t need an army of friends, just a small handful who you can trust, have a giggle with or even a cry when necessary. Some of our most long-standing friendships form when we are at primary school. As pupils return and social distancing measures decrease we should be embracing friendships both old and new across year groups to create a strong school community.
Find out more about how YPO and our partner Twinkl are working together to support schools with the recovery curriculum!