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And a big welcome to Erin Horgan, an elementary school teacher from Whitby, Ontario.
Join her this week and witness the loving side of education – the bravery, the leadership, and the care going into our kids as the “new normal” brings them all back to school.
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The Return to School
Written by: Erin Horgan; Circle the Child
As an informed educator, let me start by saying that I am looking forward to being back at school with students next week. I have missed “my kids”, not having seen them for the last five months. The year ending abruptly as it did last spring, was hard on everyone involved, families, students and educators. We learned together through distance learning, and did our best. But next week, going back into our schools, seeing our colleagues, and our students, is what we’ve been waiting for.
As much has been discussed about the return to school this fall, as an educator, I realize we are returning to the ‘new normal’. I am, however, concerned about the adjustment this will have on students. In listening to parents, I am hearing:
- My kids are staying up later than me
- My kids are sleeping until noon
- My kids spend most of the day online, or gaming (hours and hours)
- My kids need to get back to socializing with their friends
- My kids need to go back to school
- My kids need their routine back
Since March, our kids have been at home. We were asked to isolate in our homes. As we moved through phases of reopening it was months before socializing happened. Even as adults, we still make sure we, and our families, are safe, and our masks have become a regular accessory, making sure all family members have it as we leave the house. Our children, however, may have not been going to places where they have needed a mask for more than very short periods of time. This is all going to change.
For me, September is always my ‘new year’. It signifies the beginning of everything new – a new school year, new students, new lesson ideas. I love the first day of school. One of my favourite sights is to see children running to one another, laughing, smiling and hugging the friends they haven’t seen in a while, meeting new ones in class, choosing their desks and who they’ll sit with, and having back-to-school activities that include moving around the class, talking with different groups, and getting to know each other again. This is not going to happen this year. Our ‘new normal’ is going to be a big adjustment for everyone, especially our kids.
As students, our children will need to adjust to getting back into a routine – waking up earlier, getting breakfast, and getting to school. Some students did not participate in distance learning last spring. They are coming back to a new grade, a new classroom, a new teacher, new procedures, and new rules. Some of their classmates may not even be there, as many parents have chosen to have their child attend ‘virtual school’ online. Those going to ‘in-person’ school will not be going back to what they know.
What can you, as parents, do to help your children navigate these new waters? First of all, as soon as possible (there is not a lot of time left!) get them back into a ‘school day’ routine. Go to bed at an appropriate time. Get up at the time they would need to when in school. Limit screen time, and take breaks between the time spent online. Go outside. Practice wearing masks for longer periods of time – increase by one or two minutes each time.
Most of all, prepare them by having honest discussions about whatever your school or school board has sent you about the upcoming year. Tell them their friends may not only be in a different class, but may be attending virtual school for this school year. Tell them they will have to (depending on age and school board) wear their mask indoors at all times. Tell them there may be different rules about recess, lunch and even going to the bathroom. Make sure they know to wash their hands often. Remind them that their teachers and other school staff care about them and want the best for them, and when they are asked to wash their hands, yet again, to do it. We all want our students and their families (and ours) to be safe. New protocols will dictate their day. Of course, it is still school. They will still be learning – it is just going to be different. Students today are used to hands-on activities and lots of group work while learning. Unfortunately, that most likely will not be the case this year. Let them know that how they will learn this year will also be different. Finally, they can still speak up (a little louder with their masks on) when they need help. Ultimately, while their teacher wants them to feel safe and look forward to school, they want them to be successful and are always there to help.