With confirmation that schools across England are to return week commencing 8th March 2021, our thoughts turn to school leaders, teachers and support staff who will now be gearing up to re-open their doors to all children post-lockdown. School staff will be faced with the difficult task of supporting students in their transition to the classroom whilst dealing with their own anxieties concerning the ongoing worldwide pandemic and the impacts that coronavirus may have had on the teaching profession over the last year. So, what can you do to help ease the transition back into the classroom for both yourself and the children in your care?
Lean on your team
Each member of your team is in the same position as one another, and some may be dealing with the impending return better than others. Use each other as a support network to discuss concerns, next steps, rules and regulations, and anything that may be troubling you. COVID has disrupted traditional processes for the education sector, and it is natural for school staff to have elevated concerns as we approach the next step. If possible, set up a meeting with your colleagues before school starts to address any critical questions you have regarding the first days of school. UNICEF previously laid out some essential questions that parents may have for their children’s schools back in August 2020, which may guide your questions for discussion with the wider team.
Plan for a new classroom routine ahead of your return
Coronavirus has forced industries to adapt to a new normal, and as we know from our brief return to school in September, the school environment will face significant differences in comparison to the familiar spaces that we once knew and loved just last year. It’s important that your classroom is set up in such a way that ensures comfort in both learners and school staff to prevent additional and avoidable anxieties. You may want to consider a consistent timetable that will help your pupils to adjust to a new ‘typical school day’. For example, in primary school settings, try to schedule your mathematics lessons for 10:30am every day so that children know what to expect and when, making their transition in to ‘normality’ that little bit easier.
Keep in touch with families
It’s vital to keep the parents and carers of your pupils updated as we approach the big return. To relieve any anxieties in the family members of your class, keep in touch via letter or email to let them know what they can expect for their child during the first days back at school. Make sure that parents and carers are notified of any changes that you have made to your school since lockdown begun, what they can expect from the school and any plans you have made moving forward. It’s extremely important that your students’ parents are informed of the procedures that you have put in place should any students or staff members test positive for COVID-19 to alleviate any concerns here.
Strengthen relationships with your pupils
For some teachers and support staff, you will have only spent a mere four months face-to-face with the pupils in your class. Now is the time to get reacquainted with all members of your classroom on a one-to-one basis, to ascertain student motivation and help children reconnect with you. This will help to break down any fears that your students may have built up during their time away from the school environment. If possible, arrange a casual online meeting with your students and their parents/carers before you return to school. An informal, non-teaching related conversation with the members of your class will help to break down barriers and solidify a relationship between you and your pupils.
Consider your hybrid learning strategy
With a high number of coronavirus cases still prevalent across the country, teachers will have to balance a mix of face-to-face teaching and home learning. This can be extremely overwhelming, but it may help to take some time to establish blended learning strategies for the first days back at school. Elizabeth Holmes has put together some top tips on conducting a hybrid classroom session whilst some pupils continue to shield or must self-isolate, should you require some additional guidance.
At such a tumultuous time for the education sector, we want to help you and your school succeed. For more tips on looking after your mental health and wellbeing, online teaching and preparing for your return to school, see our blog articles available within our career advice hub.
About the author
Daniella studied Education Studies (Early Childhood) for three years at the University of Winchester. During her studies, she regularly volunteered at her local primary school working alongside teachers to offer learning support and teaching assistance. Daniella now works at Eteach as Marketing Executive for both Eteach and FEjobs, where she remains passionate about helping to match teachers with their dream jobs and schools.