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  • Irakli Tsereteli

Helping learners with the transition back to school

Updated: Jul 30, 2021

Cambridge University Press Blog

By Jo Morton-Brown, Cambridge University Press | Source

The role of a teacher is to continue to support their student’s education and emotional wellbeing during this time...

In my role as an Emotional Health Practitioner, I recently delivered an online teacher training day about working with students post-lockdown, and on staff wellbeing. Over the course of the training, it became apparent that far too few teachers feel equipped to cope with students’ emotional wellbeing. Several commented that they do not feel qualified to deal with learners’ poor mental health.

With many students around the world returning to their classrooms this September, after months at home in lockdown, it is more important than ever that teachers feel able to support students to cope – not only with a very different transition back to school, but also with the wider events and circumstances affecting them.

Partial school closures have affected countries across the world and, as students have been returning to school, they have been facing the stark reality that school life has now changed. As the academic year starts, we know the uncertainty of future months will provide challenges to both students and staff.

The return to the classroom makes it clear that school life has changed. With 2020 shining a light on students’ emotional wellbeing as never before, how can we do more to help our learners understand and manage their emotions?

Moving forward

The rules and consistency of school life will allow students to feel safe and protected, and being back to the classroom will be an instant comfort to many. Students may turn to their teachers to ask for help to deal with their experiences. Although it may not always be easy to know how to react to a young person who is distressed, crying, experiencing a panic attack or expressing an anger outburst, I believe that ALL teachers are equipped with the ability to support students. I believe we can all provide ‘professional love’.

The role of a teacher is to continue to support their student’s education and emotional wellbeing during this time, and here are three of my five steps to better support students:

  1. With a ‘whole school’ approach, where every member of staff takes responsibility by offering hope, compassion and professional love, the pastoral team will be able to respond to students who may need more support. I believe that if a school adopts this methodology, then therapeutic intervention, such as counselling, can be provided if and when needed to those students who require it most

  2. To simply show professional love (adhering to your own professional boundaries and timetable) offer conversations such as “I noticed you seemed down yesterday, is there anything you’d like to talk about?” or “Earlier you seemed angry, I’m here if you wanted to share a worry,can help alleviate and sometimes overcome any distress a student might be feeling

  3. Never underestimate the power of listening. As the late Mr. Steven Covey, author and international bestseller believed “most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

Celebrate achievements, not losses

As we know, resilience is a skill that students need to learn and experience. Lockdown will have naturally provided challenges, but it is important that we embrace what our students have achieved: what did they learn about themselves during lockdown? What was their biggest achievement? What were they most proud of during their time away from school? What was the biggest challenge that they overcame?

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