Alison Curtis: School teaches our children how to grow into young adults

Alison Curtis: School teaches our children how to grow into young adults
Alison wants her child and all kids to be excited for the new school year despite the changes they're facing. File picture

It is upon us now. The kids are due to go back to school in a matter of days and a whole range of emotions are being felt by kids, parents and our educators alike.

It is all I have really spoken about with friends and parents of my daughter’s classmates. Some can’t wait to get their children back to the classroom, some are apprehensive and a very few are looking at options to educate their children at home.

I am somewhere in the middle. I am anxious, I won’t lie. For the past number of months, I have been able to monitor my daughter Joan’s exposure to others as well as her behaviour around hygiene. When she goes back to school I won’t be able to be on top of this to the same degree, so I will have to trust that she will be.

I have been careful to not express my reservations to Joan. Instead, we talk about what the classroom might look like, that she won’t be able to share any of her pencils and that she has to keep washing her hands. After all, going back to school is such a fun and exciting time and a time of year I looked forward to every year as a child. And I want that excitement to continue for Joan and all kids despite all the changes they are facing.

The reality is that school brings so much more to a child’s life than the academic side of things. It teaches them how to socialise, how to make and keep friends, how to compromise and how to be part of a team. It is their mini-universe where they learn all that they need to be equipped with in order to join the bigger world as adults.

Our kids have been missing out on all of this for the past six months. Some have thrived, others have coasted but a lot have suffered from this lack of exposure to other kids and being in the school environment.

So parents, teachers, principals and the government all agree that kids need to get back to school. We need to do it in a way that the majority feel safe. We have seen throughout this pandemic, that one plan won’t suit everyone. People react in different ways; some being extremely cautious and others less so.

Children have suffered from lack of exposure to people their age. A closed playground in Bandon, West Cork last month. Picture: Andy Gibson
Children have suffered from lack of exposure to people their age. A closed playground in Bandon, West Cork last month. Picture: Andy Gibson

After reading quite a bit about possible plans and what other countries have done a few things have come to light. One is that it is inevitable that there will be clusters in schools as we return but what is meant by this is that unfortunately there will be some cases in some schools but that we have the capacity between parents and schools to ensure that these do not turn into mass outbreaks.

I also have read that in some instances parents in each classroom set up a spreadsheet and each night individual families report in on their child’s health, a bit like the Covid app. They record temperature, if the child is feeling well and if they have come into contact with anyone who has travelled outside of Ireland.

Whatever way this maps out in the next few weeks people will be anxious and nervous and I think we have to be okay with that. We need to support each other in any way we can, without judgement and I am sure we will get through this, together.

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