It is now almost a year since the UK first entered national lockdown, and schools closed in an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19 in the classroom.
Twelve months on are in national lockdown once again, and likely to be there for at least some students until after the Easter break. We are also still finding strategies to cope with the social isolation and disruption to our lives.
Schools are no different; still closed, the pressure on educators, parents, and student communities alike is probably more intense than it was a year ago.
With a second year of exams cancelled, studying can seem even more frustrating and pointless than it has at any point so far in the pandemic.
However, this will end, even if lockdown in the coldest and darkest months of the year seems particularly hard. And that means that school will start again, with everything that involves.
Everyone is working from home
There is a major hurdle that often gets overlooked, and that’s that parents and guardians are often working from home too (and if they’re not, children are still in school). This puts pressure on home work space, broadband connections, and even access to devices.
Here are some tips to help you work around each other and establish boundaries that work for everyone.
1. Make everyone work to a timetable, not just the children
Start times, break times, lunch, and the end of the working/school day should be the same for everyone.
This provides a healthy boundary between work/school and home and is a good prod to all to get up and dressed before starting work.
Timetable any parts of the day where someone has to be online for a meeting or specific lesson carefully and try to accommodate everyone. You will have to make compromises, but a timetable will ensure you can take it in turns more fairly.
2. Who works where?
In many houses, there will be extreme pressure on space and devices.
However, there’s a big difference between “always online” and “always in contact”, so adults can help by setting screen break examples, and keeping in touch with colleagues via Slack or Zoom on a mobile device.
Mimicking a school ‘desk’ setup as closely as possible is beneficial for concentration, so make sure children are sitting upright at a table if possible.
3. PE (and Music, and Art etc.) is part of learning
Whether exercise is a daily date with Joe Wicks, or a quick walk around the block, make sure it’s part of the working day.
Screen breaks to practice scales or play through music help concentration and focusing on art or other craft work after a spell on a screen help to refresh those tired out from screen fatigue.
4. Talk to each other
This is a strange time for everyone. No one has the tools to deal with this, and no two days are alike.
The news can seem to bring hope and despair in almost equal measure, so it’s important to talk through concerns. Make a No News rule for the duration of the working/school day.
5. Take breaks at the same time
Sitting down to lunch together can make an enormous difference to everyone’s mental health and means an enforced screen break for all.
6. Make the computer safe
Hackers and scammers are using the pandemic to widen their reach, finding their way into Zoom meetings uninvited, hacking into private school chatrooms, and scamming their way into other messaging programmes.
Parental controls will help to keep children safe, but make sure passwords are changed frequently so that adults don’t fall foul too.
7. Don’t forget life skills
There will be days where the internet goes down, or everything is simply too overwhelming to switch the computer on and interact with other people.
Don’t despair; the day isn’t wasted.
Use it to teach children how to bake, or any other household skill that will stand them in good stead in the future.
For some children, it’s inevitable that home will be home, and school will be school, and never the twain shall meet.
However, it’s still possible to encourage learning by stealth – guide reading and TV watching as much as possible and encourage children to do their own research around subjects that interest them.
Even an hour or so playing computer games a day will teach them strategy and give them social interaction with much-missed friends, so all is not lost.