Editorial: Back to School, Still in this Together

Back in those early, heady days of early 2020, the life we are leading now would have been unimaginable. School closures, home schooling, travel restrictions, masks, lockdowns and the very word 'pandemic' becoming a part of everyday conversation. Let’s face it, 2020 has been a circus, and one most of us don’t want to revisit.
This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19
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This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19

If any good has come from the many, many challenges of the Covid-19 crisis (and all the other things 2020 has thrown at us), we at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com believe it is this: We have all been reminded of the vital role that schools (and more importantly, teachers) play in not only our children’s education, but in their well-being and mental health too.

Even those of us who don’t have children, or who perhaps don’t send our children to bricks and mortar schools, have seen the impact of the worldwide ‘school closures’. Without those daily safe spaces for society’s children, we have watched parents, our co-workers and friends, stretched beyond comfort to try to juggle work, home school and more. Parents, you did it! Whatever way you’ve now chosen to support your child in returning to school (be it full time or online) we know you’ve made some tough decisions with what’s right for you child and your family at heart. We wish you well (and some time for a quiet coffee, at least!) for the term ahead.

Despite being guilty of using the phrase from time to time, we at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com aren’t really fans of the term ‘school closures’. Schools didn’t close, they transformed themselves (and so quickly!).

Within two weeks of learning that our children could no longer physically attend school, teachers across the UAE were delivering a full curriculum, online. To do this took a level of commitment and effort that’s hard for all of us non-teachers to truly understand.  Remember those first Zoom or Microsoft Team meetings when you couldn’t work your microphone or camera (no… just us?!)? Remember trying to figure out how to manage your ongoing projects and the demands of your workload from home? Factor in a class of challenging teens (all desperately worried about their futures as exams around the world were cancelled) or noisy 5-year olds (all desperately missing and needing the company and friendship of other children) and you begin to appreciate the magnitude of what teachers achieved.

The KHDA's "In this Together, Dubai" initiative

It took creativity, empathy, professionalism and total commitment to transform a ‘real’ school into a virtual one. Teachers, teaching assistants, support staff and school leaders – you stepped up, proved that we’re all ‘in this together’ and we thank you (special kudos too for teachers with their own children at home – we see you, you did it all!).

With 30th August only days away and despite some emirates now having taken the decision to defer physical school re-entry for a short, extended period…students, teachers and families will become a true community again in the not too distant future.

Much like the start of online learning and online working, there’s likely to be bumps along the way at first. Schools in Dubai have no less than 118 guidelines from the KHDA to follow to ensure the safety of everyone in their building, and in the other emirates the demands are much the same. In short, despite everyone’s best efforts, there are going to be hiccups and challenges before we all find ourselves accustomed to the new rhythm of a school day.

Our patience is going to be tested as we queue for the school car park for longer than ever before.  If we’re not permitted to enter our child’s school campus, then building relationships and lines of communication with new class teachers might take longer than last year. We might feel lessons are not being delivered in quite the way we’d like or expect them to be. Some parents might see their children struggle with the new demands on them. How to overcome these issues? Our view? It's simple if difficult to do: Give schools and teachers time to find their new new normal.  Communicate, extend support and hang on to the mantra that has served us so well so far: We’re all in this together. 

The team at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com wishes every student, parent and teacher the best of luck for Term 1 of the 20/21 academic year. 

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