The pandemic has undoubtedly affected all of us over the last 17 months. For many, lockdown was simply an exercise in baking banana bread, doing questionable home workouts, and bingeing Netflix. For others, the living room became their office for the first time - and Zoom their worst nightmare! But for the younger generation, the pandemic interrupted life at an already challenging stage, throwing everything the parenting books preach of routine, structure, and socialization out the window.
We won’t know the full extent to which the pandemic will have impacted students and their abilities within the classroom for some time. And indeed, every child’s experience will be different. Some teachers however have already reported that “students are now less motivated, more afraid to speak and interact with each other, more withdrawn, and not responding to questions during classroom discussions or asking for help.”
It will be fundamental to students’ successful transition back into the classroom that teachers and educators do their best to mitigate any further impact on learning. So with all the uncertainty surrounding the big return to school, and student morale down 49%, what can educators do to aid students’ transitions back into the classroom post-lockdown?
Routine has long been a part of a school day, quietly granting stability and structure through the turbulent and transformative adolescent years. Furthermore, with the move to online learning came a unique opportunity for parents to carve out a new structure for their children’s day- a new routine that didn’t revolve around the school bell.
With the disproportionate disparity between children’s experiences throughout their time at home, it is difficult to assess how each individual student fared studying remotely, and how their routines (or lack thereof) affected them. Teachers, therefore, should adopt an inclusive approach to easing their classes back into a school routine.
Start with a “settling in period”: let students adjust to being back in the classroom and socializing with each other. Then, once the students have settled in, look to implement a routine tailored to each class’ individual needs. For example, some classes may benefit greatly from a 15 minute pastoral session in the morning to talk through their experiences and concerns from the pandemic. Some classes, on the other hand, may be eager to get stuck into catching up with missed work, and so would benefit from getting into academics sooner rather than later. Establishing a routine, whatever it may look like, will help to anchor students who may have felt lost and disconnected, and will once again guide them through their school journeys.
2. Sense of Belonging
In a similar vein, try to regain a sense of belonging within the school community for students. Homeschooling may have been a great experience for some, but others may have found themselves feeling perhaps isolated, scared and lonely.
Learningsciences.com reported that students are now “less motivated, more afraid to speak and interact with each other, more withdrawn, and not responding to questions during classroom discussions or asking for help” - all of which will have detrimental effects on students' overall academic success. Reminding pupils that they belong within the school community will help to ease them into their return to the classroom by dismantling the barriers of social isolation caused by lockdown.
3. Make Time to Talk
Give students time to share their experiences of the pandemic and connect with their classmates. By acknowledging the events of the last year and a half in your class, students can begin to overcome the anxieties they may be having about returning to school- perhaps even finding solace knowing their peers share similar worries.
Mentalhealth.org.uk's advice on supporting pupils return to school notes that “it is important to find a balance between respecting the enormity of the situation, the sacrifices that people [have been] asked to make and the losses they have experienced without sensationalizing or dwelling on the situation.” By having these conversations, students should gradually engage in academic activities with greater confidence, knowing they are not alone in their worries.
4. Student-Led Learning
It has been well established that “students are more academically engaged when they are empowered to direct their own learning experience.” Student-led learning allows students to be agents of their own education, with teachers acting as “facilitators, consultants, and collaborators, rather than directors.”
The responsibility that comes from directing their own learning is a key facet in transitioning students back into class post-pandemic. By reversing the lack of agency young people (and indeed the rest of the population) experienced throughout lockdown, student-led learning empowers students to take control of their learning, mitigating where they may have felt helpless in other aspects of their lives throughout Covid.
5. Project-Based Learning
Project-based learning (PBL) is a teaching method that brings learning to life, ignites student creativity and curiosity, and allows students to explore connections between school to the world around them. As with student-led learning, PBL is facilitated and not directed by teachers, promoting student agency and encouraging increased motivation and engagement in class.
By structuring learning around physical projects, as opposed to traditional methods of lecturing and note-taking, students have been found to engage more with the educational content, motivated by achieving their project end goal. A study into PBL found that “students felt that their assignments were more interesting, challenging, worthwhile, and enjoyable”, in turn making their move back to school an overall more positive and enjoyable experience.
It’s this pedagogy that inspires everything we do here at pi-top. Learning by doing, rather than passively receiving information, is embodied within our pi-top products. Supported by our project learning platform Further, students get hands-on physical electronics, robotics, and computing experience. It’s learning made creative and fun!
It has been an incredibly challenging time for educators and undoubtedly, back to school 2021 will be yet another obstacle teachers will face this year. To the teachers- amongst all the noise and chaos, remember to be kind to yourselves. You are doing a great job! Without all the fantastic teachers and the amazing work you do, there would be no school for students to thrive in at all!
It may just be a marathon and not a sprint back to classroom reality this year, but with some perseverance, we’ll get there.
To find out more about pi-top in school, visit our education website here.