How I found Returning to School

Posted: 1st June 2020

Children are to stay 2 metres apart, frequent cleaning of surfaces, staggered breaks and entering times and continuous washing of hands… returning to school during this COVID pandemic may seem very overwhelming at the moment with many questions from teachers, practitioners and parents being left unanswered. 

It’s understandable to feel very overwhelmed by the thought of returning to school. Right now, it might feel impossible to create a learning environment to cater for the new guidelines as set out by the Department of Education. I know the vast majority of teachers have been working hard developing new learning environments, storing equipment and changing school procedures to accommodate, but in reality this will be a working progress whilst we come to terms with our new ‘norms’ within the school environment. 

I am a primary teacher from the UK, but I have been working in Melbourne for the last one and a half years. We went back to school last week. I understand the COVID numbers are so much higher in the UK so naturally there will be a heightened sense of anxiety, but we have also had to prepare in a similar way. 

After 7 weeks of teaching remotely, supervising vulnerable children and working with my colleagues to adapt the learning environment to keep everyone safe, it felt surreal going back. I wasn’t prepared for the anxiety of the parents. It would usually be my job to answer questions and reassure them when they had concerns or questions. Not being so confident to offer the reassurance I usually would because of my own uncertainty was a strange thing. They were, however, very thankful for the continuous communication. For example, when we decided to throw away all existing stationery, we told them and explained why. When we decided to not allow money or coins on school grounds, we again told them and explained why. 

The biggest thing we found, was what we decided was best at one time, wasn’t actually working when children had returned. For example, I had separated my tables to seat 2 children per table, however this had caused congestion and crowding in certain areas of the room. I therefore changed my tables around three times that day until I found the most feasible solution to assist a room of 6 year olds to socially distance. The staggered start times also had to change after day 1, as it made certain classes on particular timetables a lot longer which didn’t work for the younger children.  This was brought to the leadership’s attention by the teachers whose timetables were affected. This again was changed, and explained to the parents who were  again thankful for that open door of communication. 

After going back to school, my advice would be;

  • it is ok to feel anxious. If you are anything like me… it now feels like the new norm and I have fully gotten into the swing of the new procedures. 
  • keep trialling different things that work for your room and work for your school, if something isn’t working, make sure you speak to your leadership team. They won’t notice the things that you do. They are there to help and will want to support you, your children and your parents to be successful at implementing the current guidance given. 
  • keep moving and active, this will keep your class engaged especially if there are additional playground restrictions. I downloaded the book ‘101 games to play whilst social distancing’ which is completely free to download at the moment and is written by Early Years professionals. You can get your own copy here
  • if the current guidance given gets changed, do not look at this negatively. The people at the top are just like you and me, they may adapt or change things that are not working so well, just like we might in our classroom, 

And finally, keep that open communication with the parents. This is something we as teachers are already so good at but it is ever more important during this time of uncertainty and worry. 

We are wishing you the safest return to your classroom, 

Stay safe, keep positive and focus on the smiles of those little people in front of you who are ecstatic to see you again in the flesh. 

Hayley from The Edubox Team