Ever since the Prime minister’s recent announcement that all pupils in England will return to school on 8th March, I’ve been in a bit of a state. On the one hand, like many parents who are struggling to work and support home-schooling, I am delighted. For the sake of my 9 year old daughter’s mental health, I’m absolutely thrilled.
But, of course, there’s still a pervasive sense of anxiety and worry: a sense of real and present danger as we return to crowded classrooms room, typically without our vaccines. So, how to keep calm and sane in a time of such challenge?
6 tips for a successful school return:
- Beware deficit thinking: Try not to be too distracted and distressed by the negative narrative about ‘lost learning’. Of course, things are less than ideal but, as the professionals, you know your pupils and you are the people best placed to identify gaps in learning and to address these.
- Celebrate the achievements that pupils have made during lockdown, however marginal or non-school related they might be. Begin your building back from this perspective of positivity. Ask each child, ‘What have you gotten better at?’ or ‘What are you proud of?’
- Support pupils as they emerge from a virtual world. The impact of extended periods on screen will vary from child to child but be alert for problems such as poor posture and impaired concentration. I recommend regular ‘reset and reboot’ activities to punctuate each lesson.
- Get them talking. Many pupils have been incredibly isolated and, whilst they are craving human connection, they may have lost some of their communication skills and/or confidence. Make space for conversation within the classroom so that they can re-establish their voice and the sense of themselves as a learner.
- Remember that lack of appropriate vocabulary is one of the biggest causes of academic underachievement. Make ‘word work’ an absolute priority in the coming weeks and months.
And, most important of all …
- Do the things that are proven to work best. The stakes for this generation of young people are incredibly high and I think that every minute of every lesson now needs to count. Our teacherly instincts will carry us so far but you can quickly ensure that you are up to speed with the latest proven pedagogies and assessment methods by joining me on 19th April for my new online course Make Every Lesson Count – Proven Tools to Accelerate Progress.