Thoughts on Returning to The Classroom

A Conversation with one of our resident SEL experts on transitioning back to the classroom and tips for making it as smooth as possible.

We know that transitioning back into the classroom for the first time in over a year will present unique challenges to students and teachers alike. We want you to know that the QuaverED team is here with you every step of the way! 

Our QuaverSEL expert brings 11 years of experience in elementary and middle school settings where she’s focused her work on equipping students with appropriate coping skills and strategies to navigate varied emotions, teaching and modeling appropriate social skills, and preparing students to become kind and contributing citizens of their homes, schools, and communities. 

In this post we will talk through some common questions and concerns as well as helpful things to keep in mind as a parent or teacher. Let’s dive in!

What are some practical ways students can address and manage fears they may have about going back to school in person?

Adults can model coping skills for their students. Some examples of these skills are – deep breaths, i-messages (I feel anxious, I feel happy), reframing negative thoughts, journaling, making art, and normalizing that it’s okay to have all kinds of feelings.

What are some good conversations to have with kids about this upcoming year and what may be different?

Asking the following questions can be a great way to prompt conversations about what kids may need to feel safe and included when returning to school. 

  • What do you need to feel safe/trusting?
  • What do you need to feel part of the school community?
  • What is different about school now? What did you like about remote learning? What did you not like? 

It’s also important to teach students self-advocacy so they are able to speak about how they feel and let teachers know their comfort level. 

With social distancing in mind, do you have any ideas on how students can interact with their friends and peers again in the classroom?

There are ways to use the space you have creatively to not only encourage distance, but also interaction with peers. Gallery walks are a great example of this, as you can have displays or charts that are spaced out so students can walk around and observe together. This can be done in the hallway or around the classroom. This is also a great time to let kids be vulnerable and weigh in on their own comfortability level. Let them lead the way by having them choose a colored sticker for the day or activity to indicate whether they prefer to work in a group, or individually.

Suggested Activities: 

  • Starting class with some icebreaker activities can help promote relationship building, and encourage social interaction as students may be more socially awkward or out of practice using those skills.
  • Playing “four corners” or similar activities outside or on the playground
  • Have students write down 2 or 3 things they are feeling that day, and have them swap journals with a peer to discuss
  • Collaborative Anchor chart (like this one: Growth Mindset Anchor Chart

What are some helpful things to remember as a teacher during this time?

That it’s important to advocate for yourself and your boundaries.  That it’s also ok to be honest and vulnerable with your students, to an age appropriate level, as modeling this behavior is a great example for them. More than anything, give yourself plenty of grace! This has been a very difficult time, and you’ve done the best you can.

QuaverEd loves our teachers and we know that to be at your best for your students, you have to first take care of yourself. Do things that have a positive impact on your mental health, such as taking a minute to recenter by walking outside or on the playground, confiding in a colleague you trust, and using sick days when needed.

As a parent?

Be realistic about the return to in-person learning.  Have faith that schools and teachers are working with you to meet the needs of your student for today and tomorrow.  Continue providing grace to yourself, your child, your child’s school staff.  Go at your own pace. The last year has brought changes you could never dream. A return to some kind of normal won’t feel normal and that’s okay. We’re cheering you on.

Also know that there are mental health resources available to you. Looking for a quiet moment or some help managing stress? While our songs of the month are written for younger learners, we find older learners (like Moms and Dads) can use them, too. Here’s a great song on Managing Stress

Any other thoughts as we begin this transition process?

We need to recognize that the transition back to full-time, in-person learning is going to take time, hard work, and patience from everyone.  We need to provide grace to one another, be honest about our feelings, and provide safe spaces for students to be honest about theirs. Some kids are going to take longer than others to adjust, and we can’t force it. Whether you’re returning to the classroom or finishing out the year online, the team at QuaverEd is here. 

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We are very interested to hear how these lesson slides and sequencing ideas are carried out in your classrooms. Share your ideas or feel free to ask us any questions at Info@QuaverEd.com.