As the return to school approaches, the conversations have resumed about priorities and needs for the children and instruction methods. If we are to approach things carefully and responsibly, there is in fact just one specific thing that the children need.
They need time.
Despite the obvious need to regain a sense of normality in routines, normality in daily interactions, it is imperative to recognise that the next few weeks are going to consist of a significant transition for many young children. We must ensure that a sense of urgency to focus what was missed our cover lost ground does not blur our focus on the emerging needs presented by the children. To navigate such an immense transition, we all need time, but this especially so for the children.
The children will need time to readapt, reconnect and even remember. They need time to regain familiarity with their surroundings with their routines and with those they share the space with.
As a class, they need time to rebuild their sense of community. So for that, we need to prioritise opportunities that will facilitate that reconstruction of community.
Just like September 2020, play can and must resume. Children need to play together to interact, to share, to collaborate. Children need to play to compromise, to create, to imagine and to communicate. Play can be facilitated safely. Hygiene isn't an excuse. Through a collective effort between children and teacher - with pods, good hand hygiene, ventilation and toy hygiene, it can be done!
On the return to school, circle time will afford opportunities to talk, to share and reconnect. Again, with a little extra consideration in terms of spacing, it too, can be done! Be it with sit spots or masking tape, make it happen.
The humble 'read aloud' has really been to the fore in connecting with the children over the past year. Remotely, classes connected with their teacher through the read aloud. Live or pre-recorded - it was necessary; and for many, it was the window of connection with a teacher that was enjoyed and loved the most. Globally, online read aloud resources are booming, and rightly so. Now, on the return to school, leaving the digital read aloud to the side for now, the nurturing, comforting experience of the face to face read aloud will play a huge part in creating shared experiences for listening, interacting and reconnecting. The read aloud experience will not only immerse children in rich language and the magic of reading but will facilitate opportunities to refresh and reinforce a multitude of literacy, social and behavioural skills.
Avoid the lure of the must have 'back to school' resources, must have 'catch up' bundles...it's not what the children need. In fact, you need to give yourself time as a teacher to observe and reconnect with the children before you can even begin to establish what in fact, it is your class 'need'. Playing catch-up and bombarding the children with drills of solitary busy work and worksheets are not the priority. Choose play, choose interactions, chose story. Choose time.