The Kids are Alright?
September is almost upon us and that usually means Back to School. But of course this year isn't like any other year. And Back to School means something different this year.
Here to explain is someone who knows more about this than me. Michael Hodgson is a dance, drama and music teacher with the TDSB and the Young People's Theatre. He has been gracious enough to lend us his thoughts and insight into the upcoming school year...such as it may be.From the Frontlines of the Incoming Schoolyear:
I am a front-line worker. I never really thought of myself as a member of this category but, as with so many facets of life, this has changed and adapted as a result of Covid-19. I am a grade K-6 arts teacher in the TDSB. The lead up to the schoolyear is usually met with an underlying combo of anxiety and excitement. This year, the visual reminder of the CNE may not be in attendance but students will soon be in class. As we approach September 8th, likely for the first time ever, to send or not to send has become the question. I will not feign to know all of the pros and cons here however, every family must do what is right for them. Some families will opt to keep them home and work with the school’s remote learning if they have a lifestyle that allows this opportunity. Others will create small groups in their communities and hire outside of the public system for a fee. Most will be sending their children to school for myriad reasons such as work-life, affordability, socialization, etc. Regardless of the choice families make, their children and our students have been dealt a blow that they never saw coming. They have been without routines, their classmates, their teachers and their clubs, teams and lessons, for so very long now. They are dealing with trauma.
How do I work to mend the mental health of our students?? I believe firmly in the healing power of the arts, imagination and the great outdoors. At this point in the summer, I usually have my initial lesson plans all drawn up and am ready to begin the year with gusto. This year, I put the brakes on the 3 R’s, and I am focusing on healing the trauma our students have faced. It is possible. Why just today, I saw a young child jump up and down with excitement at the sight of moss in a pond along the trail. Students tap into their senses in the outdoors. Students can take “listening walks” around their community, the forest or a trail and just breathe and listen to all of the sounds around them. When was the last time we encouraged a daydream? I taught online drama camps this summer for Kindergarten to grade 3 students. For a brief time, each morning, those kids escaped and created new worlds, moved their bodies to show their feelings, and shared their creativity with characters and expression. The escapism found in creativity and imagination will be crucial not only in our starting up of the year but rather, perpetually. Kids will need to talk about and express their feelings more than ever and as educators and allies, we must listen to and validate those feelings. By fostering a creative community of learners, we are capable of slowly healing and moving on constructively and collaboratively.
By working together, teaching the importance of masking, hand hygiene and physical distancing and engaging in play and getting our hands dirty in the mud we will be ok. I bought masks from commUNITY because they are Canadian made, they donate a portion of sales to Food Banks Canada and also, they look great and will help keep us all safe. We can make small strides towards joy with a mask on – no problem. The ultimate goal as an educator is to instill a joy and love of learning. We will need to start there; with the love we have for our youngest minds and the release that expression brings. Together we can keep one another safe, smiling and smart too. Look out along the West Rail Path this fall, just maybe you will see some students dancing optimistically and expressively along the way.
Thank you Michael for sharing your perspective on this. A wonderful take on a very important topic for anyone who has school age kids.
Stay safe! Wear a mask.