Re-establishing a Love of Learning

| 22 Oct 2021 | 11:52

How to reopen schools is a widely, and sometimes emotionally, debated topic. Navigating the recent disruption to the classroom experience has been challenging for students, teachers and parents alike. The conversation around return to the classroom mostly centers on the health and safety of our students and school communities, but let’s not forget the social and emotional wellbeing elements that are equally essential. As students do return, we must be cognizant on how the effects of the pandemic have reshaped their personalities and outlooks on life, and so, too, must we adjust our systems by which to engage and further their education.

After spending my career in schools in New York City, I joined the advisory board of Wetherby-Pembridge School this fall with a goal towards incorporating life skills, social-emotional health, community spirit and philanthropic values into our children’s education. When schools closed in March 2020, few predicted the start of such a long period of online learning. Our students, and those across the country, lost months of traditional education, resulting in a decline in both academic and social skills. It was imperative that Wetherby-Pembridge make the transition as seamless as possible by blending the schooling to which the students had become accustomed with new forms of education to further personal growth.

To ensure a successful reopening, we knew it was time to listen to the students’ needs and emotions – prioritizing their views. No longer would sit-down lectures and assignments keep our students engaged. With a renewed focus on pupil voice, School Council and Eco-Warriors groups focused on student opinion and school sustainability projects and initiatives.

The children are encouraged to be active community builders and good citizens after a year where they were likely more isolated than ever before. One instance our educators found successful was the return of family-style dining, which helped promote community, good manners and a love of good nutrition. This immersive learning style addresses social interactions the students might have missed during lockdown while simultaneously working on life skills to help them succeed in future years.

Self-Care and Gratitude

While we have looked to implement techniques that make the students’ move back to classroom as smooth as possible, we can’t forget the impact on parents and our teachers – something we’ve been working hard to obtain feedback from to ensure our programming works for all concerned parties. To address these concerns, Wetherby-Pembridge takes part in Mental Health Day with school activities across the month of October to promote self-care and gratitude.

In addition, the school is offering workshops for parents and their children, so the community can move forward together in strength – something we feel is important for schools across the city to implement where possible. Parent workshops emphasize mindfulness and reducing anxiety in children, building resilience and help with mitigating the impact of excessive IT and screen time at home. As for the faculty, we train staff members through Graydin Coaching for Life, which focuses on making our teachers better educators and leaders through improved listening skills and collaborative relationships, designated a new well-being room in the school for children and staff and emphasized a whole school focus on gratitude.

We are thrilled to have our children safely back in the classroom at Wetherby-Pembridge. By focusing not only on supporting our children and restoring what has been lost academically, we continue to search for more ways to foster community and emotional and social well-being in our school.