By Cathy Duncan
For all teachers and learners, this pandemic has forced us into a period of isolation where the physical classroom, staffroom or learning hub has no longer existed. We have all been forced to adapt to a new virtual way of learning and teaching.
As we think about the move back to school, we must remember that while this is a shared experience for us all, our experiences of lockdown will be varied. We will all have suffered an element of trauma albeit on a very wide scale. Some of us will have simply felt isolated from friends, familiar routines and boredom. For others the experience will have been ever more traumatic, possibly with the loss of loved ones.
Recognise the trauma
It is therefore important we recognise this shared trauma, no matter how well some appear to have coped and start to anticipate how best to address the range of needs of both teachers and learners on the return of school.
Teachers nor learners will not be in a place to learn or function efficiently if they are feeling stressed or anxious. It may take a long time to rebuild the school community. We must not lose sight of the fact that connections will need to be strengthened and trust rebuilt before the academic side of school is addressed. Only when relationships are redeveloped and everyone feels safe, can schools really start to look at academics.
Leadership teams will look to their local authority or governors for support and the autonomy to do what best meets the needs of their staff and learners. Connections need to be rebuilt at all levels. Uncertainty is the source of much stress and anxiety. While leadership teams aren’t expected to have all the answers they can connect with staff and keep them informed and assured along the way.
There are already many fantastic examples of school teams collaborating and working together, where communication lines are open and honest and where staff feel listened too. This will be a great strength on the return to school. Staff will feel connected and share a feeling of togetherness. Overcoming adversity together will give them the belief needed to rebuild their school community in the new normal.
Nurture and build
Young people are incredibly resilient, but we cannot expect them to bounce back into school life without nurturing them and building relationships and trust. We need to help them readjust so that they feel reassured and reconnected with school.
Let them talk about their experiences and really listen to their stories. Only then can teachers begin to understand and acknowledge what their learners too have gone through. Making time to talk about the challenges they have overcome as well as the positives will help everyone move forward together as a school and a community.
The time spent wisely on return to school, rebuilding connections on all levels, among leadership, staff and learners will help schools rebuild their communities. They will return once more to be exciting places full of passion, connections and relationships.
So perhaps there will be some good to come from this unique, shared, somewhat traumatic experience. It might just make us all readdress our human need for connection. The new relationships that we take time to build will be stronger and more meaningful. Surely this is the best platform for real learning to take place?