Back to school or in our case (going ‘forward’ to school) on any given year can often feel overwhelming for some students. Butterflies flutter in stomachs, sometimes from nerves, often from the unknown, or perhaps due to sheer anticipation of what the year to come has in store. This will certainly be a year like no other. Teachers and administrators are working hard to understand, shape, and create a ‘go forward’ to the OJCS environment that will be exciting, rich, engaging, and most importantly safe. It will not be perfect but it will be perfectly imperfect because at the OJCS we learn better together and we promote a culture of critique. All of us – students, parents, teachers, admin staff – all of us feel some degree of nervousness and uncertainty this year. We would not be human if we pretended not to feel all the different emotions that come along with this particular going forward to school. It brings with it some important reminders. We will not all agree with everything but we all need to remember that we are all trying our best. When fuelled by anxiety, we sometimes forget to look at another’s perspective. Remember that all of us at the OJCS share common goals and common language guided by our North Stars. We must keep lines of communication open and transparent, and to voice our worries and concerns with respect, understanding, and appreciation.
Preparing your child at home now will be an important step in working together in ensuring a smooth forward to school. My social media feeds have been peppered with great advice, suggestions, and ideas which I’d like to highlight and share here. One post that struck me as helpful comes from Kate Gryp from her friend Rich Johnston. See full post here.
The main message is to encourage parents to understand and think about how different school will look in the fall and practice these new social etiquettes now. Don’t attach negative feelings to the practice, simply address them as factual statements of what will be in September.
- Teach how to put on and take off a mask safely;
- Practice wearing a mask for incrementally longer periods of time;
- Label all masks and send labeled spares in a ziplock or closed bags;
- Teach and practice where to put the mask when it’s removed;
- Teach and practice public washroom protocols – in and out – no playing or lingering;
- Teach and practice how to properly wash hands with soap;
- Practice hand sanitizing before and after eating (and several times a day);
- Supply a tea towel to place on the table before eating;
- Cut up food into small pieces and practice eating with utensils, not fingers;
- Practice tieing shoes, zipping up zippers, buttoning tricky buttons – promoting independence is always a good thing;
Talking openly with children, answering questions, and addressing concerns honestly is the best way to reduce anxiety. Trying not to let your own fears and anxieties (if you have any) show through to your child(ren) is important. Here is another incredible resource that some of you may be interested in using. Social stories are a way to help children visually understand a new situation and a way to reduce anxiety and fears when faced with something unknown or new. These social stories were created by Tara Tuchel who is a Speech and Language Pathologist who primarily works with children with autism and she has generously posted these stories to share for free. Although social stories are specifically designed to help children with autism, any child experiencing anxiety or trepidations about what going forward to school will feel like during a pandemic will likely benefit from this gem of a resource. Click here for a full list of resources from Tara.
As always, if you have questions, comments, or concerns about going forward to school, please don’t hesitate to be in touch. For now, practice these new routines and safety measures at home in a comfortable, loving, and relaxed environment. We are all in this together!