As Shanghai international schools start the 2021-2022 school year, many parents and students are wondering how to get ready for what is bound to be a ‘unique’ year in the classroom. Returning to school amid a pandemic requires a mind reset, a flexible ‘go with the flow’ attitude, and an abundance of positivity.
Given that COVID-19 doesn’t look like it’ll disappear entirely any time soon, students and parents should perfect a few strategies to help them deal with whatever issues may arise along the way.
Here are 5 back-to-school tips that’ll help you deal with a new year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Check the vaccine requirements of your school
China kicked off its student vaccination drive in recent months, recommending all students between 12 and 18 years of age get the COVID-19 jab.
Some schools are demanding students be vaccinated before they return to the classroom whilst others, in areas where full vaccination (double doses) are not abundant, realize that this may not be possible for all students, and their parents, before the end of the year.
You should already have been informed of the vaccine requirements (or lack thereof) of children’s school but, if you haven’t heard from them, now’s the time to ask.
2. Make contingency plans for possible delays to the start of the year
The one thing the Chinese Government has made abundantly clear is that it expects schools to apply a ‘zero-tolerance policy’ when it comes to positive infection cases. Several universities in Shanghai have already announced they’ll be delaying their starting date given the rise in COVID-19 cases in their area. This means that your children’s school may, at any time, delay the start of the year and/or cancel classes at very short notice.
If you’re working full-time and must rely on child care if schools close, it is a very good idea to create a ‘last-minute’ contingency plan, just in case.
3. Be alert, not alarmed – thoughtful vigilance is key
The single most important recommendation is to be vigilant of possible COVID-19 infection symptoms. Not paranoid, by any means, but alert. Do not, under any circumstances, send your child to school – or go to school – if feeling unwell. It would also be advisable for students to check their temperature at home every morning, for their own peace of mind.
Overall, children seem to be less likely to be infected by COVID-19 and, if infected, also show less severe symptoms. Unfortunately, this also means that it might be easier for children to unwittingly spread the virus, which is why it’s imperative students be isolated if they – or anyone within their family unit – comes into contact with a known COVID-19 case.
At WISS, students’ safety is our priority. Every morning students and all teachers and staff follow the safety measures before entering campus, including checking temperatures and hand sanitizing. On top of that, students’ temperature is checked on many occasions during the day. We also follow the disinfection and isolation protocols in the case of any of our students or staff presenting any COVID symptoms.
4. Make contact with teachers and other parents
Summer 2021 has been undoubtedly the season with ‘’least contact” as far as school communities are concerned. It would be a great idea to touch base before getting back to school – contact fellow parents, other students, and teachers and enjoy a few virtual meetings to catch up. This is particularly helpful if students are feeling quite apprehensive about returning to school under such trying conditions.
We all know students are resilient and tend to worry much less than parents but, sometimes, they also need to be comforted and reassured that everything will be just fine. Reconnecting with peers and their favourite teachers could be just the mood boost they need! If starting the new year in a new school, connecting with teachers ahead of time is even more important.
WISS knows that feeling supported is very important, especially when we are new in the WISS community. Before the start of school, WISS organized different coffee mornings to meet the new WISS families. Moreover, during the school year, WISS Parent Association organizes activities and workshops to meet new people and reinforce the sense of community that makes us very special.
This brings us to the next point…
5. Focus on SEL (social and emotional learning) this year
Whilst many students can and will thrive academically with distanced learning, most have suffered emotionally from the lack of in-person contact in the last year. If the COVID-19 pandemic has proven anything, it is that students (of all ages) have an inherent need to socialise and learn, together, developing their emotional and social skills alongside their academic ones.
For this reason, it’s quite important that teachers (and parents) make a concerted effort to focus on SEL, the emotional and social skill-building component of classroom education that’s become evidently invaluable in recent years. Team building activities, one-on-one time and group projects should take precedence to bread-and-butter school work, especially at the beginning of the academic year. Students can benefit from chatting about their summer activities, their goals for the year and have the freedom to talk about any anxiety they may be harbouring due to the ongoing pandemic.
WISS is open to introducing all disciplines that strengthen students’ wellbeing. WISS counts on a Student Support Department to which students can turn whenever they need it to get psychological assistance when they are going through difficult situations.
Teachers and parents from WISS receive talks and workshops focused on emotional learning to know how to act and what guidelines to follow when a student needs help.
WISS Pre-Nursery students know well how to improve their wellbeing, as they have incorporated YOGA into their routine. Every week, these little kids experience developing body awareness, building or increasing their concentration and feeling part of a healthy, non-competitive group.
From meditation breaks to morning emotional ‘catch ups’: there’s a bevy of mindful activities to include in class (and at home!) to help students ease into their back-to-school routines this year.