We want to offer parents a few tried-and-true tips that can help the transition from summer mindset to school focus. A return to in-person teaching is not a return to “normal.” Students are coming back to the classroom amid a global pandemic. To ignore that fact is to ignore best practices – setting students up for a rough school year. As you navigate this new normal, consider these strategies that will help students have a successful school year.
The first step, and perhaps the most important, is to acknowledge that the pandemic happened (and is still happening). Everyone, including children have been impacted by the pandemic. Acknowledging the challenges faced and the lingering effects is important – it validates childrens’ feelings, prioritises their mental and physical health, and creates a path forward.
Encourage children to share their feelings about the last school year, and don’t limit sharing to academics. After creating this dialogue, shift the conversation to solutions and points of gratitude. Ask children what they’re feeling and what they need to be successful this school year. Ask your child what they’re most grateful for; the pandemic presented a wonderful opportunity to recognise everyday privileges that we may have taken for granted.
Now it’s time to plan purposefully. You’ve asked your child what they need, now incorporate that information into your planning. Principles of social-emotional learning are useful and essential after traumatic events. Social-emotional learning involves creating an environment where children are challenged to be self-aware, understanding the impact of their decisions on others, and then making choices based on the social implications.
Another educational tool you can tap into is trauma-informed practice. Remember, every child and teacher experienced trauma related to the pandemic. Trauma-informed practice seeks to understand that trauma and provides an atmosphere and instruction that promotes healing and avoids retraumatising individuals. So, while it is critical to discuss the trauma of the pandemic, it is also critical to plan purposefully to avoid causing more harm.
There is no handbook on how to return from a pandemic. Listening, observing, and adjusting will be as important as initial planning. You’re in uncharted territory and to set your children up for success, you’ll need to be vulnerable, ask them to be vulnerable, and make adjustments that meet the collective needs of your family. You are a pioneer in a new normal; acknowledge it, plan for it, and adjust accordingly.
The start of the new school year is always exciting as it is a fresh start with new teachers and the opportunity to make new friends. Ultimately, this school year is just the next step in your child’s learning journey!