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Why schools are craving normality

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Although the wider reopening of schools has begun, things are still far from normal for everyone in the school community. But after 13 weeks, teachers, leaders, children and parents, are all craving some sort of normality.

In this blog I highlight the key areas where normality is needed and identify some ways in which we may be able to introduce it back into our working week for the benefit of everyone’s wellbeing.

Staff meetings, collaboration and school improvement

It is true that when the closure of schools was announced, teachers did what they always do – they went into SORT IT MODE. They problem solved, collaborated and innovated in new ways to design an offer to children and continue to self-improve.

Then came 13 weeks of home working, Zoom staff meetings and opinion giving through Survey Monkey or Google Forms. This is not the way schools have evolved to be effective and furthermore, this digital way of operating is straining due to the fact it is not an embedded or preferred approach.

As Zoom staff meetings continue, there is rising concern that, although people can see and hear each other, the dynamics are different. The normal rules of debate, turn taking and discussion are somehow distorted. Meetings can be hijacked by the confident Zoomers, whilst others watch the meetings as if watching a TV show. The whole concept is alien and therefore the creativity, equitability and ‘buy in’ are just not the same.

Now that an increasing number of school staff return to the building, leaders must strongly consider face to face (socially distanced) staff meetings. Not only will it be heart-warming for our amazing teams to see each other again, but we can restore some of the magic that can happen in a physical staff debate that seems to have been lost through video conferencing.

Teachers should also now use the opportunity to physically see each other around the building and have a socially distanced catch up. The joy of being back in our buildings and reconnecting physically has to be capitalised on right from the start of phased reopening to resurrect true collaboration and support wellbeing.

School routine for children – no matter where they’re learning

It is obvious that parents and children too are craving the normality of school life. As phased opening continues, schools are being inundated with more and more families wanting their children to return. We are still, however, in a position where some of our children will remain at home whilst others are in school.

This doesn’t mean that we can’t reintroduce school routine and normality for families. A Monday morning Zoom assembly is a fantastic way to start the week, allowing children to see their teachers and friends and start their ‘school’ week.

Some schools have now moved to a home-school project approach, where children are working on, discussing and celebrating the same work from home and in their school bubbles. Other schools are collecting items to celebrate throughout the week and hosting Friday Celebration Assemblies or posting a celebration video showcasing the talents children have developed through lock down. These simple ideas give parents and children a punctuated week that goes some way to replicating normal life.

In lockdown, it is so easy for the lines between school life and home life to be blurred (for teachers as well as the children). Trying to return to normal in the ways discussed above will help the natural separation of work and home. This compartmentalisation of the week not only replicates normality but is really helpful for people’s sense of belonging and wellbeing. Something really needed right now.

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