Returning to School (again): dealing with transitions
By Sarah Beynon, Acting Head of Learning Support

So, the date has been announced? How are you feeling? Excited? Nervous? A mix of emotions? None of this is unexpected. Childline’s recent campaign “Nobody is normal” reminded us that everyone is different and, as a result, each of us (students, teachers, parents) will have a different mix of feelings as we approach 8 March. So, how can we help each other make a smooth transition back to school?

Firstly, acknowledge that everyone’s experience of lockdown has been different. Some will have loved getting up later, easy access to snacks throughout the day, the freedom to move around, play with the dog and other home benefits. Others may have really missed the structure and formality of school, their friends, sports and face-to face contact with teachers. As we come back to school, the transition will not be an instant flicking of a switch from ‘home-learning’ to ‘school-learning’ but time will be needed to re-adjust from the ‘I was at home and my notes/pens/ brain is still there’ to ‘Now I need to be in school and sit still / listen/ put my hand up to speak’. Flexibility in approach will be key, recognising support may be needed in unexpected areas and that there may be some for whom further help is required. The National Association for Special Educational Needs, (NASEN), reminds us in their November magazine that there may be a long term impact of lockdown and students who have not needed support before may do so now, whether or not they have an identified learning difference. The Learning Support department and members of the pastoral team are here to give this, so do talk to your child’s tutor or housemaster if you think this might be the case for your child.

Secondly, students have developed different ways of studying while remote learning; some of these they would like to continue when back in school, some they want to ditch immediately. Are all their notes somewhere in an e-cloud? Is that where they should stay or do they need to be brought to Earth and printed out? If they stay online, do all other notes join them? Organising, collating and ensuring essential information is signposted will be critical whatever approach is adopted so resources can be easily found when needed for subsequent work or revision. Giving the teenager in your house the opportunity to explain how their system works will demonstrate its robustness or expose its flaws and may set your mind at rest too. The important thing here is that it is their system and it works for them so listen with an open mind rather than imposing your own ideas.

At the time of writing, we do not yet know the answers to how assessments will work, what grades will be and there have been many U-turns that have added to the general feeling of uncertainty. Clear communication about what we do and don’t know is key and modelling that ‘Not knowing is OK’ can reassure students about this. It will be important to focus on building our own and our student’s resilience, perhaps using  the 7Cs, from the work of Kenneth Ginsburg: connection, confidence, character, contribution, competence, coping and control.

Whatever the future brings, the 8 March is a positive step on the road to normality; a road we will all walk together as the Abingdon Community.

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