The recent announcements from the State government gave us all the certainty we have been looking for in regards to students returning to school.
Although I would argue we have all learnt many important lessons during the pandemic, the important role schools play in the lives of our children has never been clearer. Schools are places where young people connect and form positive relationships with their peers. These relationships are crucial to their wellbeing – which is why CONNECTING is one of the five daily habits of the Wellbeing Hive. Schools are places they feel safe, connected, valued and appreciated.
Schools are also places where young people explore passions and learn about themselves. Although many complain about the challenges of homework and the subjects they like less than others, schools are places that they try new things and explore concepts and creative outlets (CREATIVITY being another daily habit). Schools develop us as full well-rounded people, and introduce us to important concepts globally as well as locally. They expand our thinking and inspire us, stimulating CURIOSITY and developing CHARACTER.
Schools are almost magical.
With this in mind, returning to campus in October provides all students with so many opportunities and adventures ahead, but also likely, some cause for anxiety. As parents, there are a number of things you can do to support your child’s return to school – depending on when it is occurring.
Junior School Students
It is important that you start conversations with your child about how they feel about coming back to campus. The classroom teachers will certainly be talking about it the week and getting the children ready for the change, and already key staff are in place to support those who might struggle – staff with whom the children are already familiar.
Some younger children have stayed home for most of lockdown and have not even been to the shops, so coming back to school will be a significant change. During any transition process it is important to talk about what is the same and what could be different.
What will be the same will be reassuringly familiar and worth reminding students of. For example, they will still have their specialist subjects sprinkled across the week and not on one day – ART, PE , Info Lit, French, Chinese lessons and so on. They will see their friends again, and be able to play on our wonderful playground.
Preparing them for differences is also important. Remind them that their teachers will be wearing a mask a lot of the time but they will be smiling underneath. Remind them not to use drinking taps, but rather to use their water bottles. They will also need to hand sanitise and wash their hands a lot.
And all this is in addition to getting on top of the school routine – which may mean changes to bed time and getting up.
There will be bumps in the road but that is to be expected as the students have spent more time AWAY from school than at school so far this year. We will be kind, patient, understanding and responsive. If our ELC children – who returned this week – are the benchmark, then your child will be just fine.
Senior and VCE Students
Although most schools have only got Years 11 – 12 coming back next Monday October, we have our Years 10 – 12 students returning to face-to-face learning on this date.
Although they have kept up valuable learning during the latter half of Term 3, this is the longest break from being on campus they have ever had – as their longest school holidays are three weeks shorter than our time spent in lockdown. This means, getting back into routine will be really important – ensuring there is enough time to sleep and complete all morning tasks now that time must be spent commuting to school. This may be a challenge as many have enjoyed being masters of their time, routines and wellbeing.
In addition, many students will find themselves undergoing yet another change at the most stressful time of the year – when their VCE exams are approaching. This is a time we should be carefully monitoring their moods and their down time – and making sure they do simple things like eat healthy foods that help their bodies be their best.
We have to remind them that returning to face-to-face learning will make preparing for exams easier, with readier access to teachers and peers for the study sessions that should be a strong part of the weeks ahead.
Year 7 Students
Possibly the greatest challenge will be in preparing Year 7 students to return to school after spending only a term learning on campus. It is likely that many of them will feel the anxiety of beginning Year 7 all over again – wondering about getting used to the bigger campus, the lockers, the many teachers and making new friends.
We assure you your school is well-prepared for this and will spend time helping Year 7 students re-adjust to life at Senior School again on Monday October 12th. We will go over many of the basic skills of self-management again and will focus on re-building friendships with their peers. There will be a lot of social interaction and group work to facilitate this.
The best thing to do as parents here is to reassure your child that all of these feelings are normal and natural – and that likely they will all be experiencing the same kinds of uncertainty. Ask them to trust in their teachers and keep them focused on all things they were excited about experiencing at secondary school again like new subjects, new levels of independence and brand-new activities. The older boys and girls will also be on hand to help guide and mentor, and to give the benefit of their wisdom.
Students in Years 8 and 9
For these students, the challenge of remaining working online remains, but our best measure to ensure optimism is to remind them that for the first time in months – they have some certainty about their return date. There are just over two weeks to go at the time of publishing this article.
Although it may be hard to watch the older and younger students return to school and be able to connect with each other and do fun curricular activities –please remind them that this is a taster of what is waiting for them too. And that the major celebrations of a full return to campus will not be occurring until we are ALL back together again. They should expect much celebration in their first week back.
In the meantime, again start to bring them back to a school-friendly routine, and keep promoting the five habits of the Wellbeing Hive as a way to promote good mental health and optimism in the final weeks of lockdown.
All feelings experienced by any one of us during times like these are valid and probably not unique. And all we can do is focus on the positives, and on the things we have spoken about in these publications all year that assist us to maintain an optimistic mindset. And we can communicate – if you are concerned about your child and their worry about returning to school or remaining learning remotely, reach out to the appropriate Mentor or Head of House (Senior School) or Classroom Teacher (Junior School) for a chat.
By working together, the school and families can assist in this transition and ensure there is a sense of celebration about our time back on campus. After all, defeating this virus and reclaiming access to our beautiful school facilities and peers really is something worth celebrating.