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This year has been disruptive for all of us. In some way or another, due to COVID-19, the usual routines had to change especially during the lockdown. Children have been hugely impacted by this pandemic as for a good part of the last scholastic year they had to be home-schooled. This has worked out differently for different children. Some were still provided with online lessons where they were in video calls with their teacher and the lessons were provided virtually. Other children did not have to follow such lessons but were given work to complete and videos to follow. Irrespective of the delivery method applied during these times, the experience was different to what kids were used to. Adaptation and flexibility were necessary for both teachers and students.

The return to school can be exciting for some kids as they would have missed seeing their friends or felt bored at home. Nonetheless, for other kids, staying at home for all this time might have been what they desired for. Thus, for some teachers, shifting again to teaching kids in the physical environment can prove to be a challenge and this can make them feel stressed.

Some children have spent 24hours 7 days a week with their parents for several months. Due to this, they could have become more attached to them and leaving them to go back to school can make them feel anxious. This would usually be the case for younger children. Teachers need to keep in mind that children may experience separation anxiety when they get back to school. To help them out, teachers need to provide a safe and nurturing environment for their students. They will need to be patient if the children exhibit signs of distress and cry because they want their parent/s. Should the situation not improve, psychological support for the child from a professional such a child psychologist can be provided.

Another challenge that teachers may encounter is that whilst home-schooling, kids had a lot of freedom and flexibility. Routines may have been lacking in general and therefore, initially, children may have a hard time adjusting to having structures, routines and rules to follow. Kids may get up from their places whenever they feel like because when they were at home they could do so. They need to be reminded of what the expectations in class are to avoid them breaking the rules repetitively and for the teacher to feel frustrated.

Some children may have fallen behind in their academic learning during the home-schooling period. Initially, teaching may be more challenging but eventually the kids will catch up. Revising topics which were covered during home-schooling is helpful. As a teacher, do not be afraid to ask for help if you need it. You will definitely not be alone in this situation. Talk to your colleagues and help each other out, in this way you will feel more supported.

Dr Marilyn Muscat is registered as an Educational Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom where she trained. She works with children, adolescents and their families to understand more about educational, social and emotional well-being concerns that they have and to help them improve upon their difficulties. She can be contacted on marilyn@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.