I must share this with you; the unedited words of a teacher of just 4 years speaking from her heart; yet speaking pragmatically (14 ideas below) and, I hope, helpfully as we start to contemplate our 'what nexts':
Multiple Solutions to Future Worries
Anxiety is a funny thing. I guess as human beings we are known to be creatures of habit. During the first few weeks of lockdown, my anxiety was awful. My routine went. My habits were gone. I hated the idea of simply not being busy; not being in work - not having a set of goals to achieve and not seeing my friends and family. I have always been someone who thrives from being busy and being surrounded by people so when lockdown was announced, I felt lost, totally lost.
However, after a few weeks into lockdown life and with support from a coach provided by my headteacher, I soon began to get into the ‘Lockdown routine.’ I found ways to keep my anxious brain busy – running, reading, playing board games, mindful colouring in, walks and staying in touch with loved ones over the phone.
When my coach asked me a week ago how I would feel if we were told that schools were back open on Monday (hypothetically) and lockdown was over, I felt that familiar tightening of the chest and that unwelcome knot of anxiety was back in the pit of my stomach. I was able to list off my future worries and without realising, I verbally started sharing solutions to these hypothetical problems.
So I have decided to share my ‘future worries’ about returning to 'reality' in the hope that it could help you in some way.
Children struggling with social distancing
• Take the children outside and remodel the 2m rule using a metre stick. Reiterate to the children why keeping 2m apart from one another is important and how it makes a huge difference to ourselves and to all those around us. Reassure the children that social distancing won’t last forever and we need to show love, courage and trust by following these safety rules.
• Praise children for following social distancing rules through verbal praise, stickers, vision points, etc.
• Ask the children to be creative and come up with their own strategies to help themselves and others to remember the 2m rule.
• Liaise with leadership if strategies are not successful and further advice/guidance is needed.
Wellbeing of the children
• Liaise with parents/guardians
• Seek support from leadership and DSLA’s.
• PSHE discussions with the class linked to feelings.
• Share own feelings with the class, explain that any emotion/s that they are feeling are okay and it’s how we deal we these emotions that is the most important thing.
• Share with children what I have been worried about (the things I'm writing about here) and how I have spent time thinking of how to find solutions to each of my worries – this activity could help show the children that you are showing trust by sharing your feelings with them so that they can share their worries too. Together you could then find multiple solutions to their present/future worries.
Children forgetting everything you’ve taught them
• Instead of focusing on what has been forgotten, focus on what has been learnt. Share and celebrate with children what new skills they might have learnt/developed during lockdown, e.g. baking, cooking, gardening, etc.
• Reflect with children what we are now even more thankful for now more than ever – school! - seeing our teachers/friends, family being safe and healthy. Get them to order what the most important things to us were before corona and what they are now – has anything changed, reflect on why.
• Share and celebrate home learning with the children and for those who haven’t been able to talk about what they are looking forward to the most now we are back in school.
Well-being of colleagues being low
• Redirect conversations away from COVID19 – Talk to one another about what positive things we have been doing to stay busy, e.g. baking, cooking, getting into fitness again, etc. Discuss what we are now looking forward to again.
• Be the one to bring the positive energy to the team – SMILE! But also know that it is okay to not be okay and to have key members of staff who you feel comfortable to go to.
If these strategies don’t have the desired effect, instead of blaming yourself saying,
‘I did this wrong' or
'that teacher is better than me because their children are better or they seem to be OK’,
rephrase the situation to,
‘that wasn’t the outcome I expected.’
From this you can remain positive and explore further solutions/seek additional support.
Holly Longley is a primary school teacher working in Hampshire, currently responsible for a Year 2 class. She's offering her reflections here to help you think through the next few weeks and months. Whether her specific ideas work for you and your pupils is not the whole story. Holly's advice is about the how as much as the what: Rather than stew on your future worries, write them down now and address them now. Be reflective. Be creative. Be ready.