We are amid the COVID-19 pandemic now, but it appears that—with a surge in the vaccination process—we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We can now buckle up for post-covid learning at school.
But the question is:
What will you do when schools reopen? What have you learned by far from remote teaching? What experiences will you "add on" in your traditional class when schools will reopen? What teaching practices will you continue with when you return to pre-COVID -19 teaching? Furthermore, do you have tips for teachers when school reopens or some resources you could refer to for their help?
Needless to mention, reopening educational institutions is an incredibly complex proposition. It accuses the remote learning issues due to the digital divide, challenges educators to deliver instruction in a remote learning model, and disrupts traditional social-emotional learning supports. Additionally, reopening includes a need to think about physical infrastructure and transportation and necessary processes like school meals that have been disturbed due to sudden closure. Most schools are planning to reopen schools in phases, not once completely. For instance, they plan to open for a few weeks of remote instruction to begin, later a hybrid model, hoping that buildings can fully reopen in the spring. In contrast, some are ready to open fully observing the situation.
In this post, we bring expert-recommended top tips and resources to bring into practice when schools reopen.
Validate, support, and listen to students
The transition to distance education and other recent events is likely to affect students' mental health. They may have experienced a myriad of emotions about announcing new changes, including anxiety, disappointment and anger.
As an educator, it is of utmost importance to listen to the concerns of students and, while emotions are extreme, to express their understanding and empathy. Educating families that you understand and appreciate their views will help to open a dialogue for problem-solving.
Be honest and encouraging, rather than reassuring
Students who are anxious may require some initial assurance from trusted adults and teachers that it is okay to return to class when school reopens.
Making blanket reassurance statements like; do not worry! Everything will be fine can be invalidating and may create doubt and uncertainty that may drive a need for further reassurance. This can lead to what is known as excessive reassurance-seeking.
Therefore, it is better to be open, honest, and encouraging with students. This may include acknowledging the potential risks while ensuring how precautions can reduce those risks and how students can feel good about returning to class when schools reopen.
Encourage a gradual approach, not avoidance
No planning can prevent students or their parents from being anxious. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to encourage tolerance of fear and anxiety rather than avoiding it.
When anxious or fearsome, it is a very natural desire to run away, but this avoidance maintains anxiety in the longer run. In contrast, dealing with feared situations fosters resilience and reduces long-term anxiety by helping young people realize that they can adapt. Thus, when understanding and validating students' fear and anxiety, school staff must encourage and support families in facing fears around returning to school and slowly adjusting by the passage of time.
Appreciate and reward students for being courageous
When schools reopen and students return to school, they appreciate them for showing up when the situation is not so normal. Praise them for the courage they have shown amidst the COVID scare, and aware that being brave and courageous will not only help them get through this but the entire school fraternity.
Amidst all, teachers must be positive role models through this process. The way teachers handle fear, stress and act throughout the day will impact students. So, teachers must watch upon their behaviours and attitudes.
Provide clear information to families at the earliest
It is very obvious for parents to be anxious about sending their kids to school post-COVID-19 when schools reopen. In such a scenario, school administrators and educators should facilitate the transition by working conjointly to communicate regularly and clearly with families about what is expected to happen when school will reopen. They must provide the following information to families:
- Changes made at schools
- Specific expectations for families
- Upcoming plans
- Long-term plans
Also, be in regular contact with families to inform them if there is any change in the plan.
Be prepared for difficult questions
Not all students are the same; each will have had different experiences, although teachers can be sure that quite a few of them will have questions to ask, which can be difficult to answer. This is especially true for very young kids, who will need the right dose of empathy to explain some things to not cause distress.
Therefore, teachers must be prepared to face such questions, and proper answers as tailoring responses to them can help gain trust and reduce their stress and anxiety around the whole situation for long.
Resources for Teachers When Schools Reopen
In the recent past, UNESCO, the Teacher Task Force and the International Labour Organization have released a toolkit to provide adequate support and protect teachers and education support staff in return to school when school reopens. The toolkit complements the joint Framework for Reopening Schools and the Task Force policy guidance released last month. The toolkit breaks down the seven dimensions identified in the policy guidance into a series of actionable guiding questions and tips.
The Brooklyn Laboratory's schedule map reflects new health and safety requirements. It includes staff schedules, classroom configurations and planning considerations for general education and speciality environments, such as special education as ICT classrooms. This resource also explores the use of innovative human capital solutions, such as community educators and coaches, to foster student socio-emotional learning.
Shaped by The Learning Accelerator and Ariadne Lab, based on expertise from both the education and health communities, the Parabola Project aims at minimizing potential health risks to learners, staff, and teachers while maximizing learning for all learners—with a focus on the safety, well-being, and equitable learning of school communities when schools reopen.
Available for free, the initial resources include:
This evidence-based evidence-based information guide intends to assist district and school leaders in evaluating, developing and preparing operational plans for schools planning to reopen and assessing readiness to implement the prepared school reopening proposal.
This toolkit aims at helping educators consider how to help best students adjust to the new normal tendency and sustain mask-wearing.
This toolkit intends to help educators consider how they can support small-group, collaborative, and one-to-one learning while being distant.
This resource gives principals and district leaders access to insights into how they can effectively communicate with students' families about their plan for reopening schools.
This resource has two tools; the first tool help teachers prepare their classrooms for in-person interactions, considering cleaning and distancing principles. While the second one provides a daily guidance checklist identifying which items need to be cleaned regularly and the frequency of cleaning.
This resource has characteristics of learning disorders in a student that can hide in plain sight.
This resource examines the signs of trauma and guides learners who have been traumatized.
This resource talks about What anxiety looks like and why it is mostly mistaken as some other thing.
This resource talks about how one can recognize the OCD signs in a child.
This resource reflects upon the signs that a child might have ADHD and other problems that may confuse it.