Posted on June 2, 2020 / Middle School
School is back, but not quite as we have known it. It is hard to believe that it has only been one week since we cautiously opened our doors again and began our journey back to ‘normal’ schooling. Students have re-entered our doors in such different headspaces with some ecstatic about being able to re-connect face to face with their peers, through to students with a longing to retreat back home where things were consistent and within their control. There may even be a sense of loss or grief that this time of isolation is over. It is hard to think about , but for many of our students, transitioning out of isolation has been just as difficult as transitioning in.
This range of emotions are all normal reactions to what has been a far from normal time period. As part of our strategic plans to help our students transition back to school in the best way possible we have researched a wide range of advice from across the globe. One author suggested that this time of transitioning back to school is a little like a cosy blanket on a cold winter day. The challenge is that for some students the warm blanket is the return to normal school life with friends and structure; whereas for other students the warm blanket is the safety of being home and find it challenging to step out of that embrace.
As parents, I have no doubt that you also have mixed feelings about your children returning to school, ranging from nervousness and uncertainty through to feelings of relief. Our young people may not feel able to articulate how they are feeling through this time and you may find it useful to have considered some potential behavioural changes that you may see at home over these next few weeks.
Your children may be physically and mentally exhausted and may perhaps be more moody than usual. It takes time for our students to re-adjust and to feel comfortable being back around their peers. They are processing the impact that social distancing rules have, and how to reconnect with their friends without breaking these. They may find sheer volume of social interactions and noise throughout the day to be tiring. They are trying to commit a new routine to memory such as checking their temperature, moving physically away from others, washing their hands and sanitising throughout the day. These things take brain power both conscious and sub-consciously and can result in fatigue and mood swings. Students who found remote learning challenging may also be anxious about work that hasn’t been completed and conversations with staff about this. It is difficult to gauge where each young person is at. One thing however is clear; they need each other, they need us and they need us to all work together.
The good news is that we are all a team. At school we have put time and energy into helping our young people feel clear about what can and what can’t happen within the social distancing rules. We have talked through their potential feelings of disappointment around events or activities that can’t run as normal. We have created space for our students to raise their concerns and hopefully know what to expect as they transition back to school. As staff we have tried to alleviate feelings of anxiety around work that hasn’t been completed and have prioritised time to re-establish essential staff to student relationships face to face.
Another key focus of our academic classes and our pastoral time has been to celebrate the positives that have come out of our time at home and our return to school. We see this as a key opportunity to identify what has been achieved during this time such as great student autonomy in their own learning, confidence in their skills, and an increase in creative and lateral thinking in our young people. As part of the Year 8 coursework our Year 8 students have created some outstanding raps about life in isolation. Click here to listen and hear more about how they were created.
If you would like some additional support in how to help your child transition back to school, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg has some wisdom to share on this challenging time via this link: https://schooltv.me/wellbeing_news/special-report-coronavirus-transition-back
“Research shows there are specific risk factors that increase the likelihood of teenagers developing a mental health problem. Some are set in stone, and others are modifiable. It can impact their ability to function and perform normal activities.” Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
We are all a little bit changed by this experience, so in moving forward we are encouraging students to seek ways to be kind to each other, and to themselves. It will take time for things to return to normal, but we will get there together. If you would like any further support from the school please contact your child’s Pastoral Mentor or Year Level Co-ordinator.