First day back

Issue: Volume 99, Number 8

Posted: 2 June 2020
Reference #: 1HA7s9

On Monday 18 May, many children and young people returned to their schools and early learning centres for the first time after lockdown. Education Gazette captures the mood.

Teachers at Karāpiro School were thrilled to welcome students back on 18 May.

We’ve had a wonderful first day back at school. Everything ran smoothly at drop-off time before school started and there are happy, active children across our school site this lunch hour,” reported Susan Jennison, principal of Westburn School in Christchurch.

“We’ve been fortunate to have received some encouraging and very positive messages from our families, which has made the tough times easier for us.

“Given all of the effort that we put into ensuring our online learning was up and running from day one and was provided daily, those messages are what I will remember most,” she says.

Children at Westburn School said while they were a bit nervous, they were happy to be back working and reconnecting with their friends.

“It’s great to have lots of people around you instead of just your family. It’s good to see everyone else and to be around people,”
said Emily and Jessica, Year 7.

Surreal but wonderful in Hastings

Students at St John’s College in Hastings were happy to get back to work and their friends, although there was a bit of anxiety around what the first day back would be like.

Dylan described the first day back as being ‘surreal’.

“It was pretty much like an apocalyptic movie. We had to adhere to strict social distancing rules – some of us took the situation too seriously and literally ran away from those who broke their one-metre bubble, and some acted like the pandemic didn’t even exist.

“I think today’s been different from what I was expecting. Coming into it I was nervous to see what’s going to be changing. But now I know what’s our plan for the year at school, I’m feeling a lot more confident,” said Alexander.

Seth said he missed the community around St John’s College.

“The separation from everyday life has been difficult but the staff have been very supportive. The first day back was different and challenging but the community at St John’s College has been extraordinary,” he said.

Cold start in deep south

It was a cold start to the first day back at Fiordland College in
Te Anau, with doors open to increase ventilation, said deputy head boy Isaac.

“I will miss sleeping in, but it’s been great to see my friends again.
I missed getting instant feedback and help from teachers – but mostly missed Tradie Tuesday cheap pies from Four Square,” he says.

Teacher Vaughn Filmer, who featured in the special Covid-19 issue of Education Gazette, was happy to be back at school, although he said that Level 2 rules were rather challenging to adjust to.

“Things we take for granted in school, such as social interaction, grabbing a cuppa from the staffroom, and group work in class have been put on hold. We are social distancing in meetings, and in class, which is really odd.

“It was hard to know what students would be ready for, workwise, and how much they just wanted to discuss the past few weeks. However, we actually got a bit of work completed and the students adjusted really quickly.”

Learning nest at Karāpiro

At Karāpiro School, staff decked the fence with love hearts and a ‘Welcome back – we missed you’ sign. Principal Tina-Maree Thatcher said the staff couldn’t keep the smiles off their faces on Monday morning as school resumed under Alert Level 2 conditions.

Students of the small rural school on the outskirts of Cambridge soon got busy on the first day back. Nevaeh had a special cuddle ready for school chicken Flossie, who had also missed the children (and their lunch scraps) during the lockdown.

Senior students Jessie-Lee, Savjah and Reney made an outdoor ‘learning nest’ out of autumn leaves for junior students, as part of a ‘human rights in education’ focus, where the older children considered the needs and wants of others – in this case younger children.

“It’s really cool to see the juniors using the learning nest. We made it for them because we wanted them to be happy when they came back to school after the lockdown,” said Reney.

Overwhelming but good

Nelson College for Girls student Alyah said she missed the atmosphere of being at school surrounded by people, and the face-to-face help and support from teachers. The Year 13 student said there was a sense of excitement at seeing everybody, which was almost overwhelming after seven weeks.

“It’s been draining – tiring holding so many conversations. Now there’s a sense of anxiety about not doing enough work during lockdown. It’s good to be back at school – it’s motivating to be in an environment with other students and teachers; it’s a structure that supports me to work,” she said.

Assistant principal Tamzin Darragh said she most missed face-to-face contact with students and the first day back was ‘really lovely’. With responsibility for Health and Safety at the school, she was worried in case anything had been overlooked in the school’s preparations for the return of the students.

“I was just concerned that we may have missed something in terms of keeping ourselves safe – students and staff. Were my worries founded? Not so far. Staff have been amazing and adaptable; students have been responsive and calm. There has been a lot of kindness and student positivity.

“It’s good to be back at school – I wouldn’t do the job unless I loved it. It has been so good to connect with ‘live’ people,” says Tamzin.

Missed hugs in Whangarei

Kind Hands is a special type of ECE in Whangarei that caters for medically fragile and disabled children. The centre featured in Issue 4 of Education Gazette(external link).

Teacher Sharne Schuster missed the relationships with the children and their whānau, working alongside a team of like-minded people – and cuddles with the children. She was anxious about parents’ emotions as they dropped their children off after such a long time but needn’t have worried.

“Today has been amazing just to reconnect our relationships and see that all the foundations we have built prior to lockdown and with our Facebook page all come back together. I have loved seeing all the effort that has gone into our whānau Facebook page over lockdown from both whānau and staff; this has kept us all connected and has enhanced our relationships between home and centre,” she said.

Kind Hands parent Megan Kareko said her son Makai is at an age where a lot is changing for him, and she had missed the socialising aspect for Makai and the family.

“I was excited for us all, a little bit anxious, but I fully trust Kind Hands with Makai. Today is like a breath of fresh air, Makai is dynamite and needs lots of stimulation, there is only so much we can do for him at home. But I don’t like not being able to come into the centre and give everyone a hug,” she says.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 8:32 am, 2 June 2020

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