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.
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