As your social media feeds are once again adorned with pictures of smiling youngsters in their new uniforms, and news reports show them re-entering the school gates for the new academic year, teachers and parents alike may be feeling nervous about what is to come, especially as things are changing so frequently in light of COVID-19.
So, what exactly is the 'new normal', in relation to teaching? And how can teachers prepare for this in order to best support their students?
The 'new normal' is a phrase that is often thrown around with little meaning attached to it - especially as it varies from industry to industry. In regard to schools and education, the new normal means following social distancing rules, and trying to keep the children as safe as possible throughout the day. However, there are many things about teaching that haven't changed - and it's important to realize that whenever you are feeling overwhelmed. Remember, you are still able to:
- Encourage and inspire children on a daily basis
- Help children discover and develop their talents
- Help children develop socially and academically
- Find ways to make learning fun.
However, it goes without saying that school will be a little different - for both parents and teachers - for the foreseeable future. Here are some top tips to help prepare yourself for these changes!
Teach children the importance of cleanliness - Have some hand sanitizer by the door and ensure that each child uses it upon entering the classroom. Spend some time creating posters (either with the children or before they arrive) that promote excellent personal hygiene, or even create your own songs about washing your hands. Remember, it has been proven that children recall information more clearly if they hear it through song. There are plenty of hand-washing songs on YouTube for you to try out.
Ensure your classroom is well organised - A well organised classroom is a well prepared one. Ensure that each of the children's school desks is set up in a way that allows them to properly socially distance. Children may not have as strong as a grasp as adults on just how far they should be apart - so you may also benefit from adding demarkation tape or stickers to their school desk and school chair areas to give children a better understanding of this. Each of their school desks should act as their own personal bubble!
If possible, you may want to provide all learning materials (such as pens and pencils) so that they don't have to bring anything from their home with them.
Be prepared to answer questions - Kids love asking questions about everything, and they always trust their teachers to have the answers. Ensure that you have given some thought into how you will handle any questions they might have but find ways to remain positive throughout. Children value honesty, and it's perfectly okay to tell them that you don't have all the answers right now - so long as you assure them that we are all in the same situation and going through it together.
In short, you don't have to change too much of your usual teaching practices when getting ready for the children to come back to school. After all, aside from social distancing and safety measures, your role is largely the same. Schools reopening is a step in a brighter direction, allowing them to grow and flourish once more.