As pandemic restrictions ease globally, teachers and students are gradually returning back to the classroom. With it, there are new challenges for teachers as they navigate this new landscape. This piece provides some practical tips for teachers making the transition back to the classroom.
When the Covid-19 pandemic first began, it brought unprecedented changes to all facets of life - education included. Teachers and students around the world had to adapt to the demands of remote teaching and learning as buildings were closed during lockdowns. Online lessons quickly replaced in-person teaching and virtual instruction via online platforms like Zoom or Google Meets became the new norm.
Today, things are changing again.
As vaccination rates increase and pandemic restrictions ease globally, many teachers and students find themselves gradually returning back to the classroom. After a long period of virtual teaching and learning, what would this transition back to school be like for teachers?
For both Cikgu Harlina of SK Danau Kota, Kuala Lumpur and Cikgu Noora Sintu of Sekolah Sukan Malaysia, Terengganu, they share that the transition back to school is one that poses unique challenges for teachers. Teachers are no longer providers of education alone but they also play an extended role of helping to safeguard the health and safety of students. They also need to be sensitive to the changes that students have undergone during the remote teaching period as they prepare to support their students with the transition back to school. Simply put, returning back to the classroom today presents unprecedented challenges for teachers not seen pre-pandemic.
Thus, with these new challenges in mind, we put together this list of tips to help ease the transition back to school for teachers everywhere:
As a teacher returning back to school, it is important to know the local health and safety guidelines well so you can ensure a safe return back to school for students. Keeping up to date with the local guidelines can help you plan ahead and ensure some measures like social distancing, temperature checks and mask-wearing are implemented effectively in your classroom.
For example, you may need to adjust the setup of your classroom for social distancing or plan how you would communicate health and safety protocols in the classroom with students and parents before school starts, just to make sure everyone is on the same page. Knowing the guidelines well, can also help you to plan how you would manage cases of positive Covid-19 in your classroom or beyond. These measures along with others can help to ensure a safe learning community for everyone.
Some parents may still feel anxious to send their children to school amidst an ongoing pandemic. Others may not have developed adequate confidence in the school to provide a safe learning environment for their children. Every parent is different, but they share one thing in common: being human. As teachers, you can play a role in helping to ease the anxieties some parents may have.
How about having open and regular conversations with them? Invite parents to share their concerns with you regularly and see how you can work with the school administration to allay those fears. You can also have regular conversations with them on expectations, changes, and plans of school measures, so that they are able to plan and cope with any changes that may occur throughout the school year. Consistent reassurance and support can help parents to rebuild their confidence in sending their children back to school for in-person classes.
As students readjust back to in-person learning, some may need more time to feel comfortable in a new environment. Keep in mind that for some students, it may also be the first time they are seeing their classmates and teachers in-person. As teachers, you may want to focus the first few weeks of your classes on relationship-building in the classroom to help ease the transition back to school for them.
Create opportunities for students to learn more about you and their classmates so that they feel more at home in the classroom. For example, you can invite your students to share what their experience of learning from home has been like. Get them to share what they liked and disliked of the experience and see if they are able to find commonalities in their experiences with their classmates. Helping them to feel heard and acknowledged in the classroom can help to build greater trust in the classroom as students share and learn from one another.
Although classes were on-going during the home-based teaching and learning period, not all students would have been able to participate fully during that period. Some students may have fallen behind in various ways due to connectivity or device issues and would require additional help to catch-up on what they have missed.
Consider beginning your classes with a revision on previously covered topics to help address the potential gaps in learning that may exist. Help your students to recall what was covered during the remote learning material period and assess if there may be students who would need additional guidance after class. You may also want to tailor your learning materials to students based on their competency levels. It is important to develop personalised learning strategies to help meet the learning needs of each student as you devise intervention strategies to help them to catch-up on their learning.
In navigating this new transition back to school, remember to also take the time to prioritise your own well-being. Your ability to support your students and the larger school community is powered by your own physical and mental health. It is not only important for you to practise a healthy lifestyle but also to prioritise self-care to prevent mental exhaustion and teacher burnout as you manage the demands of this new transition back to school. Show yourself kindness and compassion even when there may be mistakes that happen along the way. As a teacher, you have had to cope with a constant flux of change in the last two years so be gentle with yourself as you cope with this new transition too.
In short, we hope that this list will be useful in helping to ease the transition back to school for educators everywhere. Whether tomorrow’s classroom is in-person, online or hybrid, we remain committed to supporting teachers as they continue to make a difference in the lives of their students and the communities they are in.