We recently met with Miss Perri who has returned to teach at her primary school in London. She has given incredible advice and tips on her returning to school experience. Miss Perri covers her first day, how she travels safely, how her children have adapted to a socially distanced classroom and much more! Continue reading below: 

 

I’m 25 and have been teaching in primary schools across London for a year and a half. Within 3 months of supply work a school snatched me up as PPA (basically CRT work but the same classes every week- AMAZING!) with phonics intervention afternoons with  KS1(Year 1+2).

The school then employed me as a Year 1 teacher beginning September 2019. It was the end of March 2020 when the school closed, with a total of 8 students in my class on the last day before the transition to online learning began.
Eleven weeks of Google Classroom later the school started phasing students back in bubbles of no more than 10; On Monday the 8th it was Year 1, Thursday was reception and the following Monday saw Year 6’s back.

 

How did you feel returning to school after a prolonged lock down period?

Exhausted. I hadn’t seen 6.15am for a while haha.

There was a lot of prep returning to the classroom such as spacing the tables and chairs, creating visual reminders for students, getting your head around a gigantic risk assessment, creating personal trays with everything they would need for any lesson and a very heavy PSHE planner to begin again.

There were so many emotions running high and a lot of people would ask “So how is it going? How are you feeling about returning?” and honestly I couldn’t answer that easily. I was anxious, nervous, happy, excited, worried… everything my students were feeling.

 

What was your first day like?

An absolute rollercoaster that didn’t stop! From the moment they walked in it was social distancing on the wall and waiting for the rest of my bubble to arrive, teaching them to distance walk, hand sanitising before they got in the building, washing their hands when they got in, introducing them to the new classroom, moving through the new “Can do’s and Can’t do’s”, practising washing hands, importance of keeping our table tidy, routine routine routine …. It didn’t stop. It was very PSHE based, it was very sensory (hello playdough!), very artsy and we made sure we had a lot of outdoor activity.

 

How many children can you have at one time? And does this alternate?

We are a three form entry in Year 1 at our school with classrooms that aren’t gigantic so we are allowing 10 students + 1 Teacher and 1 TA in 1 bubble. There were 2 bubbles in week one with 15 students returning however extra’s arrived on the first few days and by the end of week 1 we had 9 students in each. More students want to return the following week so we rejigged the bubbles to ensure the teachers had their own students in week 2. Now each of the 3 bubbles has 7 students in each with more returning next Monday. Each of the 3 teachers will now stay with that bubble until the end of the school year. The bubbles can/will grow to 10 before creating a new one with another teacher from another year level.

 

Are you expected to continue virtual teaching?

Luckily we had a training teacher who has taken one of our bubbles and google Classroom is now taken on by her mentor. I still plan for Science and some English online including recording, but the rest (phonics, maths, topic, sport, religion and art) are all planned by the mentor. Luckily we are half days on Friday which gives us time to plan and some time for me to record.

 

Do you feel safe returning to school and feel happy with the protective measures your school has put in place?

150 billion %! The SLT at the school have done a phenomenal job at ensuring everything was risk assessed and made it into a meeting so that everyone was onboard and knew exactly what to do if something happened. They were also checking in everyday to see if there were new risk presents or if we needed to add/change/modify the initial risk assessment.
There is hand sanitiser everywhere, the wonderful students are now so good at distancing (we play lots of games about that too!) and washing their hands when they arrive, before entering and before exiting the classroom. We’ve also been trained to put on PPE in case a child shows symptoms. We have a paediatric first trained nurse in each year level JUST in case, we also have an on site cleaner throughout the day who goes around wiping down and cleaning up classrooms and corridors (even during lunch time!). We also have a responsibility song the students know actions too, including one responsibility to tell an adult straight away when the students may feel unwell. We’ve also got an iso room….. yeah I feel very safe.

 

How are you travelling to school?

I walk to the nearest station in the morning (15 mins and cuts out a short bus trip) and then catch 1 bus (20 minutes) to get to work. Our school has been offered a reduced price on loan bikes through a company too so there are definitely options out there. Usually when I leave in the morning, as I get to school fairly early, there is hardly anyone on the bus anyway. I’d recommend asking your school if they do anything similar.

 

Do your children seem happy and settled?

Each child is different. Out of the 9 I had last week, 2 high needs students out of my bubble of 9, had trouble settling back in and pushed the boundaries/didn’t want to do anything or be at school. However, after a few days and firm boundaries laid that started to fade. I think students look to you to see how you react about the whole situation. If you are cool, calm, collected, and from day dot they know what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour at school, they’ll become settled a lot quicker. Praising also does the trip! Fantastic distancing!
We also did a lot of talking about the things that have changed in school and why we had to make these changes. The phrase “this is to keep you safe at school” and “this is to keep everyone safe at school” in the first few days works a charm and assured students that there are valid reasons behind it all.

I know I’ve said it a billion times but PSHE was so crucial to have, and allowing students to express how they’re feeling is so important. On our second day we did a “What to do when you’re feeling blue” to  teach them strategies on how to cope. I think they just need to know it’s okay to feel any emotion but it’s what we do next with that emotion that counts (Look into “your inner  inner chimp!”). It’s important they feel safe and comfortable so be a bit silly, make them laugh, read stories, take teaching outside, have calming music on and even scent your classroom (I’m currently using coconut!); these are all other ways you can ease students back in!