By Kendall McGee | October 9, 2020 at 6:10 PM EDT – Updated October 9 at 8:48 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – It’s been seven months since students walked the halls of schools across New Hanover County. Starting Monday though, elementary school students will begin coming back into classrooms.
“We’re so excited, I don’t think any of us are going to sleep on Sunday night. It’s like Christmas, Halloween, Easter, every holiday rolled in together,” said Porters Neck Elementary principal Doug Massengill.
While virtual learning was put in place to protect everyone’s physical health during the coronavirus pandemic, there’s something to be said about a child’s mental health and development with going to school online for so long.
Teachers have been incorporating talks about feelings, diversity and overcoming obstacles in their lessons and giving students time to talk to each other in their Zoom meetings, but learning social skills and life lessons don’t always translate easily through a computer screen.
“We talk about social-emotional learning and all that we’re doing here at school but I think right now, we’ve seen that it can happen and does happen in the home as much as it does at school,” said Porters Neck Elementary School Counselor Jenna Cross. “We know that the best route to deliver that is through a child’s closest adult mentor.”
COVID-19 has had a drastic impact on everyone’s lives, but the counselor says not all the changes stemming from the pandemic have been bad for families.
“The great realization of 2020 is some of those positive things, like we can sit and slow down and have dinner together. We can sit, we can slow down and have the conversations of social emotional learning, like, how do we respectfully disagree with someone?” explains Cross. “I think children are going to remember the amount of time they had to spend with who they live with, and get to be close and play games, and learn from the adults in their home, learn from their siblings that we wouldn’t have had time to do before because we all had our to-do lists.”
On the other side of the coin, academic gaps from material not covered are another concern on the minds of many parents. Cross says she understands the worries, but adds its important to remember learning during a global pandemic simply cant be compared to school years in the past.
“This is not just at Porters Neck thing, this is not just a New Hanover County thing, this is not a North Carolina thing; this is a worldwide thing so our question is, who are we behind?” said Cross. “As far as wanting to be on the same pace we’ve been on the last ten years, we have to cut ourselves some slack, give ourselves some grace, and still be working so incredibly hard like we always do to teach these children at a pace that makes sense for them.”
Easing back-to-school anxiety in a COVID-19 world
The time away has helped schools get PPE stocked, distancing guidelines enacted, and safety protocols in place.
While the transition back to the classroom will inevitably come with some anxiety, Cross says there are ways to calm some of the nerves. She suggests parents walk their child through the process of arriving at school, donning their mask, getting their temperature checked and some of the changes they might see on the first day back and allow them to ask their questions.
“We can use plain language, we don’t need to use babied language when describing a medical issue and the importance of protecting yourself with a mask and taking the mask off and putting it on the right way. Things like knowing why the questions are being asked at a temperature screening or health screening out front,” said Cross.
As different as things will look, she says it’s also important to remind young kids what school is all about and why they go in the first place rather than letting the pandemic measures overtake the conversation.
“We’re looking forward to having students back into the building, smiling and laughing and it’s going to bring the life back into Porters Neck for sure,” said Cross.
Copyright 2020 WECT. All rights reserved.