Friday | 15 May | 2020
By Melodie Veldhuizen
Are you as a parent concerned about your children’s wellbeing when at last the day arrives that they may go back to school? We talked to Mr Ferdie Maree, principal of Rooihuiskraal Primary School. He and his capable staff are ready to welcome the learners back with open arms and they will at all times put the learners’ interests first. We trust that this will be the case in every school and that schools will consult each other about the handling of challenges.
- Learners emotional wellbeing
Children are faced with many changes because they will be exposed to unusual ways of teaching and education in the school setup. This will aggravate anxiousness, fears, frustrations and even trauma, which can have a huge effect on their emotional and social wellbeing. This, in its turn, can contribute to, inter alia, academic and learning challenges, behavioural fallout, emotional concerns and social problems. The school will attend to all these matters.
- Creative and positive ways to prepare and support children
Socioemotional learning. Focus on caring for and suppoting friends to get closer to each other without physical contact. We are going to encourage certain actions where children are going to be given the opportunity to mean something to each other and to help and support each other. Empathy with people in our community is going to be emphasised, as well as the introduction of specific values that will promote socioemotional learning.
Life skills and handling skills. Children have already been exposed to fears, insight into the media, and overprotection. They will be taught how to handle it meaningfully by focusing on problem-solving skills, critical thinking, adaptability and flexibility, developing of self-image and proactive behaviour.
Maintain perspective so that learners, parents and teachers can stay positive.
Prioritise that which is really important, to wit the child’s holistic wellbeing. Handle one day at a time through systematic integration, for instance the gradual phasing-in of academy, with not too much complicated or new work.
Reflect on the situation. We will integrate the pandemic in the LO curriculum and there will be an opportunity for constructive activities where learners can say how they experience the siuation.
Focus on the long-term view. We regard this event as a chapter in our lives and focus on what we want to achieve again, such as a school environment where optimal learning can take place.
Personal development. We want to inculcate in all the learners that inredible growth can take place in changed circumstances. We are proud of all of them for what they have already tackled the past two months.
Focus on the positive and on the experiencing of success. Our learners must realise that their efforts are noted and that even the smallest achievements and goals attained are celebrated. We focus on what has already been achieved in these times and encourage them to list the positive things that have come to the fore: new ways of learning; quality time that we now spend with our loved ones; obstacles that have been surmounted; much more time for reading; expanding our general knowledge; outdoor time where we as a family could give our dog a bath, go for a walk; and learning about nature and the world outside. All these counteract the negative things and depression.
The use of alternative resources and technology that we are already exploiting also contribute to new ways of teaching in support of other unavoidable shortcomings caused by the changed school environment. It is also being applied to home schooling lately.
Effective communication has already been taking place since the schools closed. Every teacher has been in contact with learners and their parents. The following are matters that have already been communicated and that will be communicated about in preparation:
- Parents have also been prepared for the academy course and all other school-related aspects.
- We are now preparing for, amongst other things, how and when we will go back to school, arrangements regarding offloading at the school, intervals, bathroom routines.
- What can be expected during the first few school days (arrangements regarding, inter alia, the use of face masks, how teachers are going to look wearing them, regulations regarding physical contact such as embracing)
- Procedures to be followed to attain predictability and the children’s safety
“At present we are waiting for provisional and poposed dates. What if it is postponed again?
How are we going to address the disappointment among teachers, parents and children? Nothing can be finalised now, but we keep on hoping.”
- Communication in the classroom?
Facial expression and body language are two of the most important factors in communication and expression. This is going to be a tremendous challenge because passionate teachers teach and transfer knowledge by means of emotion and feeling, which is picked up by children in a teacher’s tone of voice, facial expression and body language. The same goes for feedback from the learners where teachers adapt their rate of teaching, transfer, etc. during a lesson to the learners’ facial expressions, reactions and other visual clues.
The planning to handle the challenges is as follows:
– by preparing learners beforehand by means of fun activities to teach them to become used to masks and also how to “read” facial expressions. We believe that in this way they will acquire microexpressions and will learn to take note of those of others. Learners may struggle to become used to this.
– the use of alternative, supplementary methods of communication, mindset and classroom management. Thorough preparation by the teacher and clear instructions to learners are critical for this. We will, for instance, devote more time in the classroom to inputs, questions, etc., from the learners. Initially we will work at a slower pace to make sure everybody is keeping up. We will use more visual stimuli, such as PowerPoint.
- Natural instincts
Children learn and communicate by means of their senses, with tactile sensing one of the most important. They want make sense of the world around them by touching. Especially younger children, for instance, use touching to draw a friend’s or teacher’s attention and to convey a message. It is important to “practise” social distancing beforehand as well as to acquire the habit of wearing their masks without having to be reminded of it all the time. Apart from that charitability is part of children’s natural instinct, especially in a social environment such as a school setup. Colouring crayons, paintbrushes and educational toys, balls, skipping ropes and cones, sweets and treats are shared with playmates. To expect them to act otherwise goes against their humanity. Children will therefore have to be taught to suppress these instincts.
- And if learners still experience difficulties in adapting in spite of all preventive measures?
We will aplly certain principles such as Maslow before Bloom. It is critical first to take care of the children’s physical needs, feelings of safety, integration and adaptation to the “new” classroom and the need to belong, and especially emotional security. After that the focus should shift to the seriousness of academic learning.
In order to bring about the above the empowerment of our teachers is now emphasised. They will be expected to:
- first feel that they are in control of the new situation in order to be able to create a positive and favourable atmosphere in the classroom, which will help with adaptation;
- try and bring about stability, calmness and predictability in the classroom;
- ensure consistency and routine to establish security; and
- systematically begin focusing on academy, which will contribute to a feeling of normality and the known.
Individual support will also be given if applicable.
“ Children have the gift of vitality and will adapt fast with the right support. We are excited to welcome our children back and to know that together we will get through this.”
* All information was correct at the time of publication.