Students are returning to campuses across Beijing – but this is no ordinary back to school. As they leave behind full time home learning with relaxed schedules, flexible start times, and parents being their tutor and teacher, students will face various challenges as they go back into the classroom.
Children have spent the past 4 months working alone or with variable supervision at a desk in their bedroom or dining room, wearing the same thing for days rather than changing, and being taught virtually via Zoom. Some may have difficulty slotting back into their old routine, especially when going to school will look very different to how it was in January before Covid-19. There will be temperature checks, masks worn at all times, hand sanitizing and physical distancing making the return feel and look different. Social reconnection will dominate your children’s minds as they greet teachers and friends and adjust to a new and different looking MSB and school.
Top tips from Ken Perkins, MSB school counselor, to support your child as they return to school in the coming weeks.
Before returning to school, take time to understand the new health and safety procedures at your school. As well as packing their backpacks, your child will need face masks and hand sanitizer, maybe snacks and self-contained food. MSB will distribute clear guidelines to reduce any anxiety and reassure that your child will be safe. Remember all students need to have a nucleic test for Covid-19 and results sent to the health nurse Samantha Qin.
Ken Perkins offers this advice:
Remind your child how to keep safe by wearing their mask, using their own stationery, washing hands regularly and listening to teacher's instructions in regard to safe physical distancing. Inform your child to help them prepare that the campus will look both the same and different. Expect delays when entering the school. Show confidence and reassure them the new rules and routines are in place to keep us all safe.
Prepare for the changes in lunch breaks. Start coming up with plans for morning breakfasts as in many cases, snacks and lunch might not be happening at school in the same way as before the pandemic. Play might also look different but their friends will be with them and repeat, “we are all in this together”.
Stick to a routine
After months of learning from home, going back to school means getting back into a school routine. The key advice is to start getting your child back into a routine now.
Ken says, “Hopefully, you heeded MSB school advice on maintaining a daily timetable. If you didn’t, start now. If you thought the return to school was hard at the end of the summer holidays, the kids have now figured out that they can learn at home. So, what’s their motivation? Their friends. It’s the carrot you can dangle to get the day started. The motivation they might need to get out of bed and get going.
The importance for children to go to bed at an appropriate time, eat breakfast in order to have energy for the school day, and have their clothes prepared and backpack ready by the door, is essential. Parents: don’t get frustrated if your child is struggling to go back to their old routine. It will take time. We have all gotten accustomesd to a flexible timetable and self determination to a degree. Returning to the beat of others drum can be frustrating and take some adjustment, patience is the key.
Both parents and students are likely to have some back-to-school anxiety, but the more calm and assured you are about the return to campus, the more confident your child will be. “If you’re anxious, your child will be anxious.”
MSB has sent guidelines via emails from Head of School, Benjamin Farrell. Read them carefully, discuss them with your children. If you still have questions, reach out to the school for clarification. Information from a reliable source can grow confidence.
Don’t worry about gaps in learning
After weeks of home learning during the school closures, children will return to school having made varying degrees of academic progress. MSB will address any gaps in learning as children return to the classroom. The key message is not to worry, this is temporary and they will regain their confidence once they are back in a routine, for example, speaking English daily. Reach out to teachers and encourage your child to let their teachers know if they feel overwhelmed.
Let us assure you that the focus will be on your child’s wellbeing. “Education is a marathon not a sprint”. Things will return to normal.
Parents please remember that learning has not stopped over the last few months, it has continued in new and innovative ways. And, whether your child was fully engaged in their learning or not, they will be okay.
What does matter when your child returns to school is that we take the time to reconnect, share and grow as a learning community. Social and emotional learning and the opportunity to discuss their feelings will be offered by their teachers.
Learning will continue as well – don’t worry. We need to ensure all your child’s emotional needs at school are met first, or else learning can’t happen. At MSB, we see the whole child.
Talk to your child
With a return to normality being anything but normal, it is important to talk to your child about their concerns of going back to school. Talk to them about all the changes they will witness, so they do not feel anxious.
Talk to your child about what’s been happening in Beijing and around the world. Ask them about their worries. Ask them about what they’re excited about. Get them talking. And then go find the answers together, with age appropriate responses. Be guided by your child. Look for changes in behavior as tell-tale signs they may be anxious. (Poor sleeping, off their food, overly emotional, absence of joy)
Keep up the family time
With schools closed and parents working from home, the past three months has given everyone more opportunities to spend time together as a family. Try to maintain this stable home environment to help reduce student anxieties.
After months of reconnecting and building stronger relationships with each other, don’t just go back to how things were. Make sure you still have time to connect and spend time with your child. This is the silver lining of the last few months.
Be confident that you chose MSB for a reason. Its family atmosphere and deep connection and partnership makes our campus unique and trusted. We look forward to seeing you soon and supporting one another through this transition Back to School.