Keep Well on Return to School

Keep Well on Return to School

As schools prepare to open their doors fully next Monday, students will hope to readjust to ‘normal’ school life as quickly as possible.

For most students and their parents, the experience of home schooling has been challenging, and the regularity offered by a return to school and a chance to see their friends will mean that there should be plenty of smiling faces next week.

Of course, the pandemic means that those smiles will be mostly hidden by masks, a requirement many will already have been used to as part of their daily classroom lives during the past year.

“I think it’s the friendships,” says Louise Harte, a Science and PE teacher at Mercy College Sligo, when asked what she thinks the students have most missed about school life. “For them, it’s being together learning and all being in the one place. I think the ideal is that we are back here for the next seven weeks and that they get time to enjoy being with us and us with them.”

When schools were closed almost four months ago, it meant that students had to sit in front of computer screens for hours every day as they learned virtually at home, something which in normal times would be advised against, but which was forced on them because of the pandemic. But returning to school may require a period of readjustment, and parents should be watchful of any challenges their children face in the coming weeks as they settle in to school life again.

“We have a tutor system within the school, and we’ll really try to identify from the first week back who is struggling,” says Louise. “We might have to support them with a more phased return to school, they mightn’t be able to do nine classes a day straight away, it’s not going to go unimpacted,” she says of difficulties some students may face, while emphasising that for most students the return to school should be a very positive experience.

There is no doubt but that lockdown has been really tough for younger people, and while a return to school isn’t usually something students look forward to, in this case the regularity of school life is something that has great importance, and not just from an educational perspective. Covid-19 has challenged us all to develop coping skills to deal with so many restrictions being placed on us, and Louise hopes that this will be one significant learning that students will take with them back into life at school.

“If you said to me (what is) a positive of Covid – I do think that it has built some resilience amongst teenagers, amongst students. Because their lives changed overnight, they lost all their structure. They took some ownership of their learning, they became autonomous in their learning,” she says, adding that it is by facing challenges that we learn and grow, and in the longer term, the experience of dealing with these times may serve the students in a positive way.

Stressing that for Leaving Cert students, the upcoming weeks will be especially challenging, and to focus on a healthy diet, eight hours or more of nightly sleep and an hour of exercise a day – broken into three spells of twenty minutes if required. But for all, she says that people should return to school life in a positive frame of mind. Everyone – teachers as well as students and their parents – will be happy when the doors open again next Monday, and the shared experience of everyone helping each other will be to the fore in all aspects of school life.

“It will be good, and you will enjoy (it), once you’re there with your friends and the engagement with learning and not going back online. So try to look at the positives, and remember that there are probably way more positives than negatives.”

Keep Well would like to thank the Mercy College Sligo for permission to film this interview during Easter holidays and in making available to us some of their school showreel.

This completes the Keep Well video programme for now – and we would like to thank all of the contributors who gave so freely of our time during the past six weeks. Thanks to Marcella McGarry and Aisling Smyth who coordinated the plan, Micheál Ó Domhnaill who produced the video content, and Jimmy O’Brien and Dorothy Gillen for technical support. Thanks to all who liked and shared our content online, and we hope that these videos were of help to you in keeping well during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Keep Well initiative is delivered by Sligo County Council through the Healthy Sligo, Keep Well and Community Resilience Fund. Please visit our website for resources and information, as well as a look back on all of the video releases.

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