I’ve received hundreds of messages and emails from teachers with questions about returning to school this year. School buildings have been closed since 12th March and returning this school year will be very different than previous years. It’s almost like starting in a new role or as a newly qualified teacher once again.
I think it’s important to remember than everyone is different and teachers and students have responded differently to Covid 19 and the easing of restrictions over the past few weeks. For example, some people have felt comfortable going to restaurants and meeting groups of friends and family once again, while other people have kept their circles much smaller. Now we’re all returning to school, are likely to be in much larger groups than many people – both staff and students have been mixing in and I think it’s really important for all of us to be mindful of that.
I’m hoping some of the suggestions below will help to make the return to school a little bit easier.
I think this is vital every year but in particular this year. There has been little to no mention of this by the Department of Education or other organisations and I think it’s something we need to have at the forefront of our minds as we return to school.
Teachers can be their own worst enemies at times and can put huge pressure on themselves to create fantastic lessons, top class resources and many are perfectionists. Our training and experience could never have prepared us for teaching during a global pandemic and returning to school with the new guidelines in place. I know personally I’ve felt – how can I do it? How can I keep myself and my students safe? What methodologies can I use?
We need to be gentle with ourselves and take things slow. We won’t be able to teach in exactly the same way as we always have. We won’t be able to cover the same amount of the curriculum this year as we would usually be able to and that’s ok. We will adopt, we will reinvent our teaching methodologies, we will think outside the box and we will have great fun back in our classrooms!
Taking time each day to focus on your own self care is really important. Some things which can be easily done on a daily basis include journaling, having a bath, reading your favourite magazine, watching Netflix, meeting friends/family for coffee or dinner, listening to podcasts! In my planner I have a self care planner so I’ll be filling this in every week for myself and I do think it’s important to take 5 minutes at the beginning of each week to plan out your self care for each day.
Routines are key to success. They keep children safe and provide a sense of security too. Getting these right from the beginning of the year is so important for classroom management too. My main focus this year will be on creating a positive classroom culture which I’ll share some ideas for below.
Usually my focus is:
- Asking/Answering Questions
Lining up – entering/leaving the classroom
This year, I’ll also be including:
- Hand washing
- Cleaning of desks
- Organisation of books and materials (and keeping these neat and tidy in boxes that we are getting for each child)
- Social distancing (in as practical a way as possible.)
I have 6th class this year with 29 students. I will have 5 pods in my class and there will be 6 children in most pods. Each pod is 1m away from the next pod and 2m from the teacher. I spent hours trying to figure out how best to use the space available in my classroom and this was the best solution to ensure that the children are safe but also comfortable in the space and that I can continue to use a variety of teaching methodologies such as active learning, pair and group work with each pod.
My teacher area will be the place where I spend the majority of time as this is the only area of the classroom where I can be 1-2m away from the children. I have a visualiser which I will use to show things on the board and a screen mirror that I can use with my iPad too.
Each child will have their own individual box with all the books and materials they need. The children will not share materials.
For yard time – the children can play together as a class.
My main focus this September will be on building a positive classroom culture in my classroom. This will involve routines, check ins, chats, lots of getting to know you activities and fun. We’ll focus on rebuilding relationships and our class motto ‘Treat Others as You’d Like to Be Treated’ as well as a focus on kindness will be key.
Most of September will be spent revising in Literacy, Numeracy and Gaeilge and a variety of wellbeing activities too.
Some suggestions for wellbeing activities; (Click the image to be brought to the source)
- Describe your favourite moment today
Which holiday was your favourite? Why?
Write a letter to thank someone who has helped you
Who are you thankful for?
Who helped you today?
Your favourite food
Your favourite dinner
My favourite day
My favourite birthday
Self esteem/Self confidence
I get the children to create a shield with all of the wonderful things about themselves – all of their favourite people and things, their achievements and the things they’re proud of. This is their armour to be able to deal with different things that may happen throughout their lives. They need to spend time with their favourite people and do the things they enjoy and take time to acknowledge the things they’ve achieved and are proud of.
Another lesson I love is based around positive adjectives. The children write the words I am at the top of the page and then write a list of positive adjectives to describe themselves around the page and decorate it.
Growth Mindset is a really important concept to teach to children. I think it’s really important for children to learn that mistakes are a part of life and a really important thing that we can learn from. I’ll be spending lots of time on Growth Mindset with my class this year!
Important to Remember!
It’s important to remember that the guidelines from the Department of Education are written for the whole country, however they may not suit your school, your classroom and the children you are working with perfectly. They can be adapted to suit your individual school context and schools are best placed to decide on the various measures they will put in place.
What works for me in my classroom may not be the best solution for your room so use the guidelines and then use your own professional judgement to make your classroom as safe and comfortable as it can be this school year.
Best of luck with everything and if I can help in any way don’t hesitate to get in touch!