With confirmation that colleges across England are to return week commencing 8th March 2021, our thoughts turn to college leaders, lecturers and support staff who will now be gearing up to re-open their doors to all students post-lockdown. College staff will be faced with the difficult task of supporting students in their transition to the classroom whilst dealing with their own anxieties concerning the ongoing worldwide pandemic and the impacts that coronavirus may have had on the teaching profession over the last year. So, what can you do to help ease the transition back into the classroom for both yourself and the young people in your care?
Lean on your team
Each member of your team is in the same position as one another, and some may be dealing with the impending return better than others. Use each other as a support network to discuss concerns, next steps, rules and regulations, and anything that may be troubling you. COVID has disrupted traditional processes for the education sector, and it is natural for college staff to have elevated concerns as we approach the next step. If possible, set up a meeting with your colleagues before college starts to address any critical questions you have regarding the first days of college. UNICEF previously laid out some essential questions that parents may have for their children’s schools and colleges back in August 2020, which may guide your questions for discussion with the wider team.
Plan for a new routine ahead of your return
Coronavirus has forced industries to adapt to a new normal, and as we know from our brief return to college in September, the college environment will face significant differences in comparison to the familiar spaces that we once knew and loved just last year. It’s important that your class is set up in such a way that ensures comfort in both learners and college staff to prevent additional and avoidable anxieties. You may want to consider a consistent timetable that will help your pupils to adjust to a new ‘typical college day’.
Keep in touch with families
It’s vital to keep the parents and carers of your students updated as we approach the big return. To relieve any anxieties in the family members of your students, keep in touch via letter or email to let them know what they can expect for their child during the first days back at college. Make sure that parents and carers are notified of any changes that you have made to your college since lockdown began, what they can expect from the college and any plans you have made moving forward. It’s extremely important that your students’ parents are informed of the procedures that you have put in place should any students or staff members test positive for COVID-19 to alleviate any concerns here.
Strengthen relationships with your students
For some lecturers and support staff, you will have only spent a mere four months face-to-face with the students in your class. Now is the time to get reacquainted with all members of your class on a one-to-one basis, to ascertain student motivation and help young people to reconnect with you. This will help to break down any fears that your students may have built up during their time away from the college environment. If possible, arrange a casual online meeting with your students and their parents/carers before you return to college. An informal, non-teaching related conversation with the members of your class will help to break down barriers and solidify a relationship between you and your students.
Consider your hybrid learning strategy
With a high number of coronavirus cases still prevalent across the country, lecturers will have to balance a mix of face-to-face teaching and home learning. This can be extremely overwhelming, but it may help to take some time to establish blended learning strategies for the first days back at college. Elizabeth Holmes has put together some top tips on conducting a hybrid classroom session whilst some students continue to shield or must self-isolate, should you require some additional guidance.
At such a tumultuous time for the education sector, we want to help you and your college succeed. For more tips on looking after your mental health and wellbeing, online teaching and preparing for your return to college, see our blog articles available within our career advice hub.
About the author
Daniella studied Education Studies (Early Childhood) for three years at the University of Winchester. During her studies, she regularly volunteered at her local primary school working alongside teachers to offer learning support and teaching assistance. Daniella now works at Eteach as Marketing Executive for both Eteach and FEjobs, where she remains passionate about helping to match lecturers with their dream jobs and colleges.