“Change is one thing. Acceptance is another.”
Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
And so we start to unlock… but what has really changed? The days are still long and sunny, the family fully immersed in now familiar Zoom and Teams routines, the evenings still free of commitments, bar the occasional virtual gathering of friends and family.
The pavements and parks are busier though. When I wake up, I hear as many cars as birds, and today, two planes overhead. In the newspapers, talk of the future is now running alongside the sad and bad news – summer holidays, cafes and shops opening, and most importantly for us, the reopening of schools. Change is indeed afoot for many children, parents and school staff.
With more of the workforce back at work or thinking about it, we prepare for the school doors to re-open on 1st June. For the Junior School, that means year 6 will at least complete their final few weeks as primary school pupils together and not as disembodied faces and voices on screens.
It has been quite a journey. Zoom teaching felt unnatural to begin with… my lovely pupils, trying hard to understand a tricky concept, while I, hampered by screen sharing and shaky screen whiteboard pens, did my best to support them. Their happy, familiar faces were a constant reminder of the importance of human contact, hammering home the limitations of lockdown.
Yet, we got used to it. We developed a regular timetable and pupils mostly logged on at the allotted time, only the odd forgetful child needing the occasional Zoom reminder. I loved seeing them smile out of the screen every day, and technology, while frustrating at times, allowed the connection with my pupils to continue. How we adapt!
Now I need to adapt again. My role in Learning Support will change temporarily, as I become a year 6 teacher until Summer, helping the school accommodate the demands of smaller, socially distanced class sizes. Desks will be two metres apart; groups won’t be mixed; possessions won’t be shared (we will all look at that unclaimed jumper on the floor and guess who it belongs to); and this too will quickly become the norm.
The joy and pleasure of connecting in person, however distanced, will surely outweigh the restrictions and help us rise above the difficulties this virus has imposed on us all. Our Year 6’s will have a semblance of the sense of achievement and closure they deserve of their time in the JS. They are already creating an end-of-year show with the help of technology and an end-of-term celebration is planned. Fingers crossed the weather will stay lovely and we will spend as much time outside on Senior Field as possible.
Above all, I know that once we are established in our newest routine, some of the worry and confusion that we have all carried since March, will be replaced by the natural optimism and enthusiasm that our children have such an uncanny ability to generate.
Of course, we teachers will take some of the responsibility for giving our children the confidence that there are better times ahead… but in truth, seeing them walk through those doors on the 1st June will make us adults feel the same way too.
Sonja Goodlad has worked at Highgate since 2017. She is one of two Learning Support Teachers in the Junior School working with children in all year groups. An expat Scot, she enjoys heading north to climb hills in the rain and visit family. When at home she enjoys spending time with her children and husband, running, reading, and pond swimming (the nearest London has to a loch).