There’s an old song by Curtis Mayfield that has been coursing through my mind: “People Get Ready”. It has been covered since the 1960s many times by famous artists. The opening line – “People get ready, there’s a train a’comin…” The anticipation of a new journey is building. We are about to “get on board” for the trip to the end of the year, face-to-face.
Barker has shared numerous information booklets, which we attempt to update whenever the regulations or Public Health Orders change. In this piece rather than dealing with the mechanics of the return to school protocol, I want to offer a few thoughts about how to get ready.
The recent survey of parents and families suggested that around 85% of parents and students are eager to return to campus. Some families are undecided at the time of the survey; and a small number are anxious for their children’s safety.
Starting Again is Hard
Beyond the medical situation, however, there is another reality. Starting again is very hard. Students have developed habits that are comfortable, easy and simple. They have adapted to life on screen very readily and, whilst they very much miss their friends, the recent easing of restrictions means they can see their special relationships and enjoy the best of both worlds. They can sleep later, dress more casually, eat when they want to and even manage their own day without the demands of the daily routine. They have become very adept at manipulating the camera, sound and the online experience. They have played lots more games as well. They have certainly missed their normal school experience, but they have also enjoyed the reduction in the stresses of travelling and turning up to compulsory events like Assembly, Chapel, rehearsals, training and matches.
Some children may have quite mixed feelings about returning to school because it is hard to pick up friendships where they left them in June. I am not here referring to the close contacts, which the students tell me have been progressing online. It is the casual friendships in the playground or the locker area that worry people. This can be a cause of real anxiety about returning to school after a long break. It is the same at the start of a year, even at the start of a term – but this time this fearfulness is greatly amplified by the pandemic and its impact on families.
We all remember the feeling of starting something again. There is fearfulness of being judged by others, of saying the wrong thing or not being popular with friends. Will they still like me? Do I look different to before? Am I unfit or unfunny? Do I need a haircut? Even if these fears are groundless or completely silly, they are very normal for humans to have. These and other (often unspoken concerns) will be coursing through their minds -and (I am guessing) through yours. Even in a school with a good culture like ours, these feelings will be present. No one is perfect, nor is a school perfect – it is full of people who are growing and progressing towards their full formation. They will make mistakes, say the wrong thing and maybe even make poor choices. But it will be OK. There is a lot of love in this place and we can grow through every experience.
A Few Tips to Ponder
“People get ready – there’s a train a’comin….” What do we do in the remaining days before returning to school for face-to-face learning? How can we support our children?
A few tips to ponder, offered in the shared sense of apprehension that I am also experiencing as we return:
1. Be Real – normalise these feelings. It’s natural. Humans focus on the dangers around them as an evolutionary response. Talk about how they are feeling and don’t dismiss their fears as irrational or immature. It’s their feeling – own it and validate it. And share it too.
2. Be Safe – make it safe for them to talk to you. This really matters. They will talk if they feel you will listen and not judge them. This might time from your own routine.
3. Be in Routine - as quickly as achievable, it is important to set patterns that return to “normal”. Bed times, morning routines, homework, meal – predictable patterns are incredibly important to establish safety.
4. Be Friendly – connect with others BEFORE they return to school. Break the ice. Reach out to others and make it easier for them. They will be feeling anxious as well.
5. Be Certain – set a quiet sense of confidence and hope and assurance that all manner of things will be well. Model this behaviour as adults. Our children are very close observers of the adults around them.
6. Be Patient – it will take time to establish the patterns. A misstep or two is NOT a disaster. Make a list of the things that are worrying and put them aside to deal with at another time.
7. Be Rewarding – find reasons to praise your children. Use the 1:9 pattern – for every one criticism, offer nine points of praise. Offer little rewards when they get it right and then firm up the pattern of expectation that they can cope with the challenges, no matter what is thrown at them.
8. Be caring for yourself – parenting is hard at the best of times; and these certainly are not the best of times. Give yourself a break, a reward, a little praise, and a time to have some fun. You’ve done a great job as a parent.
There are lots of resources online that are useful. Here is one of the better ones I have seen - Returning to School after the Lockdown.
Reach out to the School’s wellbeing teams if we can support you in any way. Be assured that we are praying for you determinedly. The Lord is our Shepherd – we lack nothing. Ps 23:1