Man­age emo­tions for tran­si­tion to school


THE COVID-19 pan­demic has pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity to learn new things. Some of us have had an op­por­tu­nity to re­flect on what we value and pri­ori­tise in life. Others have had lessons on friend­ships and the im­por­tance of kind­ness. But one of the most im­por­tant learn­ings has been around the role of teach­ers and the sup­port­ing role of par­ents.

Emo­tions will vary for some of the Vic­to­rian stu­dents head­ing back to school from May 26.

While some chil­dren may be ex­cited about re­turn­ing to school, others may be wor­ried. Some may feel a mix of emo­tions. And, just like re­turn­ing to school af­ter the long sum­mer break, many of th­ese feel­ings are nor­mal.

We must re­mem­ber that par­ents and teach­ers, with their greater un­der­stand­ing of events, may ac­tu­ally ex­pe­ri­ence more trep­i­da­tion and feel­ings of un­cer­tainty than their chil­dren.

Par­ents may be con­cerned that gov­ern­ment de­ci­sions will be re­versed or worry about whether their child will be safe. Teach­ers may be con­cerned about their own health and work­load.

A spe­cial su­per­power of schools is their abil­ity to re­turn to nor­mal­ity quickly. We have seen many ex­am­ples of this around the world when schools have re­turned from far more hor­rific events.

Most schools of­fer chil­dren a pre­dictable and fa­mil­iar place of rou­tine and clear ex­pec­ta­tions. Teach­ers can har­ness this pre­dictabil­ity. Their roles as sta­ble and fa­mil­iar peo­ple to chil­dren can be hugely im­por­tant for tran­si­tion and ad­just­ment.

Teach­ers and par­ents can pre­pare for tran­si­tion in the same way they do af­ter a long break — or at the start of a new school year. In fact, many of the re­sources that teach­ers of­ten pro­vide par­ents at the end of one school year or the start of the next may still be hugely rel­e­vant.

Th­ese in­clude re­minders about school ex­pec­ta­tions and the names of teach­ers and peers.

It is im­por­tant to ex­plain to chil­dren that many day-to-day school ac­tiv­i­ties will re­main un­changed, while point­ing out ar­eas where change may be re­quired (for ex­am­ple, where they sit in class, how of­ten they need to wash their hands, or where and how they play with others). This will pro­vide a de­gree of pre­dictabil­ity and com­fort when they do step back into the class­room.

Schools should en­sure that their usual mech­a­nisms of sup­port for chil­dren with aca­demic is­sues, learning needs, stress or bul­ly­ing are still in place.

Teach­ers can con­tinue to build stu­dent rap­port and knowl­edge with their stu­dents. Stu­dents want to be known by their teach­ers and, in turn, to know their teach­ers. In some ways, re­mote learning has pro­vided a dif­fer­ent type of op­por­tu­nity to do this not read­ily avail­able in the class­room.

The stu­dent-teacher re­la­tion­ship takes time and ef­fort, just like any re­la­tion­ship.

For those who con­tinue to teach on­line, con­sider the ways you can con­nect with stu­dents. Many of the same strate­gies for fos­ter­ing so­cial in­clu­sion and a sense of con­nec­tion in the class­room also ap­ply on­line.

Teach­ers can:

GET to know stu­dents by name and as well as some other per­sonal de­tails about them (such as hob­bies). FOS­TER op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents to get to know each other; find­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties with each other is one way to build re­la­tion­ships be­tween peo­ple.

CON­SIDER reach­ing out off­line if time and re­sources are avail­able. Send them a care pack, a per­sonal note, or just make a one-on-one phone call to see how they are trav­el­ling. In­vest­ing a small amount of per­sonal time can make a big dif­fer­ence for the stu­dent ex­pe­ri­ence and your re­la­tion­ship. NO­TICE when they are not there. Make a point of reach­ing out to them to let them know what they might have missed. This also af­fords an op­por­tu­nity to check in about any con­cerns they may have or is­sues they may be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing from home.

MOST on­line plat­forms will in­di­cate whether stu­dents have been log­ging into the on­line con­tent.

Mon­i­tor­ing this in­for­ma­tion pro­vides another op­por­tu­nity to reach out to stu­dents who might not be trav­el­ling that well or are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing trou­ble ac­cess­ing the on­line con­tent.

We have all ex­pe­ri­enced this event to­gether. Com­mu­ni­ties of­ten grow stronger af­ter an ad­verse event. This event should be no ex­cep­tion and schools have unique com­mu­ni­ties to en­sure this hap­pens.

Each stu­dent’s sense of be­long­ing will be dif­fer­ent and will vary de­pend­ing on how well they cope with stress and change.

Keep­ing a check on chil­dren is im­por­tant dur­ing this time and they must be able to ac­cess the sup­port they need, as they need it. Men­tal health and chil­dren’s mo­ti­va­tion at school can pre­dict their sense of be­long­ing to school.

Par­ents and teach­ers will be build­ing a new rou­tine and should be pa­tient as every­body read­justs.

Adults can let chil­dren know they are avail­able if the child has ques­tions, and pro­vide ageap­pro­pri­ate, hon­est re­sponses, as they are needed.

All adults should en­cour­age and model help­ful ap­proaches to cop­ing, as chil­dren are not the only ones ad­just­ing back to school — we will all be do­ing it as a com­mu­nity.

Keep­ing a check on our own emo­tions and man­ag­ing them pro­duc­tively will also help our chil­dren man­age theirs. KELLY-ANN ALLEN IS A SE­NIOR LEC­TURER AND ED­U­CA­TIONAL AND DE­VEL­OP­MEN­TAL PSY­CHOL­O­GIST AT MONASH UNIVER­SITY

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