After a long summer break, most children across South Africa went back to school last week. This is generally a busy time of getting stationery, books and uniforms ready. Going back to school can be a daunting and very anxious thing for many children and for various reasons too …
- There are changes in routine as children have to get up early again.
- Going back to school means wearing uniforms, closed formal shoes and blazers, instead of casual, comfortable clothes and flip flops.
- A change of school – moving to a new school, or even to a different phase (primary to high school) – can be daunting for some children.
- There are new teachers and timetables, and with each grade that a child moves up, there are more demands from the curriculum.
- Some of their friends or peers may no longer go to the same school – some move to other schools, towns or countries.
- Some children struggle to get to school due to logistical problems, like unrest or transport problems.
Helpful tips for teachers to take the stress out of going back to school:
- Acknowledge the feelings that the child have.
You may not feel what the child is feeling, but let them know that you are listening and help them talk through their fears. Help children to problem solve by showing them the difference between what is really happening and what they perceive to be happening.
- Plan fun activities for the first few days, even with older children.
Children take a few days to settle into their routines and they are not completely focused on school yet. Their brains are probably still in holiday mode.
- Prepare for rough spots.
Be aware of what the anxious child is trying to tell you, and try to predict what may happen. The best defense that you have as a teacher is offence. Being proactive, will help you stay calm and in control of any situation that may arise.
- Stay organised and stick to your preparation and lesson plan.
Having your day planned helps you as a teacher to stay calm and collected and is the best way to keep your back-to-school week running smoothly.
- Take your classroom outside.
It is still summer and there are no rules as to where we must teach. Just 15 minutes to teach a Science concept while using the senses will add fun, interest and a sensory experience to the learning. This also gives them a movement break which will alert and regulate the brain.
- Changing parent drop off roles.
Help parents to help their child with separation anxiety. A child may be more anxious with one parent as opposed to another. Asking parents to swop the dropping off role will help a child adjust a lot quicker to school. Encourage parents to be flexible, and not to feel guilty about it.
Despite the issues that can cause anxiety, the aim is to have happy, calm and attentive children in your class as soon as possible. Have a wonderful year of teaching and learning and remember to take breaks during your day – this will help to keep you calm, regulated and happy!
Annabella Sequeira is a Specialist Sensory Intelligence® Facilitator for Parents and Teachers.
She holds a BSc (Occupational Therapy) degree from the University of Cape Town, backed by 22 years’ experience in both the public and private sector. She has extensive practical experience in the area of Sensory Integrative Dysfunction in children and is passionate about empowering others to improve functionality and quality of life.