New term, new challenges - but our classrooms are buzzing
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
A new academic year has started with all the usual excitement, energy and sense of anticipation tinged with nervousness that all of us in education feel at this time of the year.
Our four year olds have started ‘big school’, our leavers from July have transitioned to secondary, and all those in between have moved up year groups, met new adults and found their place in their new classrooms. The cheerful, uplifting sounds of people reconnecting have echoed through our corridors as a wonderful and welcome reminder that when human beings come together something special happens.
We are delighted to be back and even more pleased to get through the first few days when we know that a sleepless night or two has probably added to the anticipation of what is to come and meant that everyone, parents and staff in particular, are even more grateful to reclaim a sense of order and routine.
The start of a new academic year is always a busy time but the pressures this year are compounded by the continuing pandemic and huge levels of anxiety amongst a workforce that knows its only protection lies in being double vaccinated, and hoping that we have the antibodies to fight off inevitable infection.
Our primary aged children will not be vaccinated and most of the time will not know if they have caught or are spreading the virus. We know that their education and socialization must be prioritised and this means our schools must stay open for as long as we are capable of providing that education with staff who are fit and well enough to be there, too.
At the time of writing this article the new guidance requires everyone to be in school unless they are currently infected or have good reason to think they might be, i.e. have symptoms. If you live in the same household, or, as a close contact, are awaiting results of a test, you do not need to isolate unless instructed to do so by NHS Track and Trace.
Our main line of defence will be in asking everyone to take regular lateral flow tests and trying our best to keep the virus at bay.
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In schools our efforts and attention are now directed towards the main task ahead and doing our best to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on our children’s learning and development over the last eighteen months.
Much of the educational research evidence is telling us that this is not about filling a knowledge or content gap. The work that we do, especially at the beginning of an academic year, when we are setting expectations of learning habits, focusing on routines and teaching children how to learn and organise themselves for learning is going to be the key to their long term success.
We should be aiming to do more than recover. As adults we would hopefully say that we are stronger, wiser, more focused on what is important and generally better people as a result of our life experiences and it is really important that we have that ambition for our children.
As their teachers we will help them to process what has happened, to realise what they have learnt about themselves, to recognise the skills they have developed. We will seek out and observe what they are interested in and curious about and fuel those fires. We will prioritise their curriculum and the knowledge they are expected to have, so that they are learning core, foundational concepts that are more likely to stay with them for life.
We are more aware than ever that the relationship between teacher and child is pivotal in determining success. Right now, our classrooms are buzzing as those relationships are forming and we are full of anticipation and excitement about the future.
For the sake of all, we can only hope that this new academic year is less disrupted and more settled than the last.