A school is a community where relationships are formed and children learn to develop and expand the social skills learned at home from their parents and extended family. Teachers, parents and children are missing the connections they made in school or at the school gates. Teachers miss the instant feedback they get from their pupils during face to face learning and the enjoyment they get when they see the progress the learners are making.
Schools reacted quickly to the Coronavirus Pandemic. They built up their skills in technology, created e-learning opportunities and supported the more vulnerable pupils through video/voice calls and time in the Hub. The work schools did at this time has been impressive and individual teachers have gone beyond their usual remit to maintain connections with pupils which the children and young people concerned are unlikely to forget.
A reflection activity – reconnecting with positive experiences
An exercise which is often used to support good learning and teaching practice starts with the following question;
Think of a teacher who had a positive impact on you when you were at school. Why did they impact you in this way?
Most people can think of one or maybe two people and the reasons they give are either
They turned me onto their passion
They saw something in me I did not see in myself
These are the connections that last throughout our lives and teachers strive to continue to form these connections despite adversity.
How do we maintain the connections made before and during lockdown – The New Normal?
Some learners have thrived at home and prefer to have the flexibility of when to learn and enjoy the flexibility. Teachers have been imaginative in their use of technology and parents are becoming used to the language of learning and the skills that teachers use every day.
So the message is not to lose what we have learned about the importance of technology in maintaining connections with learners when they are away from the classroom.
A Common Purpose
Through social media and Teams or Skype teachers have maintained a collaborative approach to their work, and this collective approach is strengthened through a clear and common purpose.
In the paper ‘Education Reimagined: The Future of Learning’ Michael Fullan calls the first few months of the reaction of the Pandemic ‘the disruption phase’. This is when we must learn from the success and the mistakes we have made.
We are now entering what Michael Fullan calls the ‘Transition Phase’ where….”we must manage the processes and decisions needed to reopen schools” (Reference) Adapted from Education Re-Imagined: The Future of Learning (Fullen et al, 2020) Maintaining Connections in the Transition (back to school) Phase
“Schools no matter through which medium, can be hubs or response and recovery, a place to promote emotional recovery and promote social togetherness, and this is as important as any achievement gains. (John Hattie – to add in where from)
We need to learn why some children were able to engage and thrived in lock down and why. This learning needs to be done alongside parents, other teachers and the learners themselves. Schools were able to collaborate because there was a very clear focus and that has not changed as we go into the second and third phase.
Some of our most vulnerable children have had a tough time during lockdown and some children that we never imagined to be at risk in any way have become vulnerable. Wellbeing is at the heart of learning and teaching. References were made to wellbeing in the Reflection and the rebuild section but it does no harm to remind everyone that parents and teachers must look after their own health before they can support the children.
The part schools can play to support improved mental health should not be underestimated. We need to remain aware of the trauma and disappointments suffered over the past few months and that this may affect in ways we cannot imagine. What can schools do to support their pupils through the transition phase?
- Be mindful that children and adults may be struggling with their own thoughts and worries and be patient and supportive when they do not deliver to their usual high standards
- Help staff and pupils to be kind to themselves and accept they will have tough days and good days
- Do not assume that all pupils will be struggling with school-work or wellbeing issues but be ready to help once needs have been identified.
- Uncertainty can reduce our ability to cope – adults should check in with each other as well as with their pupils
- Ask learners what they need
Mary Meredith highlights that the most powerful therapy for trauma is actually in abundant supply all around us, we just need the support of colleagues – everyone on the same page and playing their part. For further reading of the challenges and how to overcome these (teachers and parents) by Mary Meredith click here.
Nurturing approaches have been successful to support wellbeing of children. For more information teachers can contact their Educational Psychologist.
As well as the information given on previous pages about nurture and wellbeing there is also an opportunity for a building of collective efficacy amongst all teachers and communities. For school leaders the challenge is maintaining clarity of focus as we hear conflicting information and teachers are pulled in different directions. But that focus builds collaboration and an ability to rebuild something that is better than it was before.
Vivian Hill, programme director of Professional Educational Psychology training at the UCL Institute of Education and chair of the BPS division of educational and child psychology, said:
“Understandably, any child returning to school may experience a range of emotions, from feeling happy, excited and relieved to be back, to feeling anxious, afraid or angry. In most cases a whole community response aimed at promoting positive reintegration and building resilience will help to resolve their difficulties. For others, the use of school-based social emotional and mental health resources and expertise may be needed. ”