When we reopened our gates and classroom doors back in April 2021, students and parents alike were thrilled to return to campus. Kids were excited to learn directly from their teachers and to be together with their friends, while parents were eager to turn the teaching reins back over to our team of experts and to regain their kitchen tables for dinnertime conversations about what they learned in school that day.
When my staff and I welcomed our students back on campus, we were required to implement strict rules around distancing, masking, and other protocols to ensure our students’ safety. All day long, we found ourselves on repeat, continually saying, “Pull up your mask” and “Make sure you’re distanced.” School suddenly felt very rules-heavy in a way we hadn’t experienced before. Regardless of the new policies and constant reminders, my team and I were in awe of just how well our students did, and parents were so excited to have their kids back in school that they supported the policies and complied with our rules.
Approximately one year after reopening, many of the strict rules had fizzled, and it felt like we were returning to a more normalized state of schooling and existing. What we have found, however, is that things are anything but “normal.”
From our observations and what’s been reported in the news, the pandemic and school closures have had a significant impact on everyone, including children. Being isolated at home led to children being under socialized and thus lacking the social skills we’d usually expect at certain grade levels. We’ve noticed an increase in unkind verbal exchanges and physical interactions between students; moreover, we’ve discovered that students’ disagreements have often been over seemingly small issues. We’ve also found that our students seem to be struggling more with self-regulation strategies, with acquiring and demonstrating learning behaviors, and with how to conduct themselves on a school campus. In short, a gap seems to exist between our students’ chronological and developmental ages.
In order to bridge that gap and support our students, my team has collectively decided that it is time to revisit and revamp our school wide expectations. An effective behavior management system teaches expectations (the how and why of them), provides positive reinforcement (e.g., praise, tickets, incentives, rewards), and provides consequences (e.g., reteaching, 1:1 chat, class meeting, time out).
Moving into our new building, transitioning to a new temporary lunch area (grades 1-5), and instituting new drop-off and pickup procedures provided us with the perfect opportunity to launch something new. We’ve been working with students to learn and practice our expectations for moving on campus, as well as those for lunch and recess.
As time goes on, I’m sure that we’ll continue to notice the effects of the COVID era, and we’ll learn how to mitigate them. I’m grateful to collaborate with an awesome, dedicated team of professionals and parents in order to support our students.
Stephanie Hasselbrink, Ed.D