Students, teachers get back to '5-day reality' as break ends
The abrupt fall back into a five-day week routine can be a stressful proposition that brings with it a whole new set of anxieties for some.
Sunday marked the return to school and the start of a new term for students across Dubai after the winter break. Unlike other school vacations throughout the year, heading back to the classroom at this time can be a daunting task for students and staff after weeks of family time and festive celebrations.
The abrupt fall back into a five-day week routine can be a stressful proposition that brings with it a whole new set of anxieties for some. While parents try hard to make adjustments at home and help get kids back on track, how do teachers overcome the challenges?
"I often start the new term with active recall. I get the students moving and help them refresh their memory, either through keywords or quizzes. This is fun, but useful to check their understanding, too," said Rachael Parkinson, teacher at Gems Wellington Academy - Al Khail.
Students should remember that each new term is a fresh start and a chance to put new habits in place, she added.
Most teachers, including Neal Oates, assistant head at Dubai British School, agree that the biggest challenge for students is often the tiredness associated with returning to the regular routine.
While older students tend to regulate themselves better and can adjust themselves "from Fortnite hours to school hours" in a few days, younger students would need adjustments in lessons in the first week back.
"Teachers know their class better than anyone else, so for some it might actually be making lessons slightly more didactic and instructional. For others, you might find that the class is generally more energetic and enthused on returning so you plan more group work and enquiry-based activities. There is no right or wrong way to approach this," Oates said.
Over at Greenfield Community School, Michael Worth, director of business links and IBCP and BTEC coordinator, said that as someone dealing with older students, he finds that "painting the 'big picture' can help".
"The academic year does create periods, such as returning after the winter break, where motivation may be low, but when final examinations are only 15 or so weeks away and the end of school for students in their final year, it is such an important time to stay focused and motivated," Worth said.
To keep the momentum high in those first few days back, he said he plans important and exciting projects at the start of the second term to help students "get involved and re-engage in their studies".
"Firstly, our work placement programme starts in early February, so students have to prepare for this. We also have our Project India trip coming up in March, where we visit Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh to link with and support an orphanage. I find that creating exciting projects does help get the students refocused."
While students may rely on parent and teacher intervention to get back into school mode, how do teachers fall back into the routine?
Parkinson said she prepares for a new year of teaching by ensuring she is fully rested and relaxed. "It is a good opportunity to plan ahead for the term, filling in the diary, as well as planning lessons and resources."
For Oates, it's all about balance. "I tend to do a little work in the first few days of the break and organise what I need to get done before returning. I then switch off until three to four days before coming back and get myself prepared mentally at that stage."
In terms of tips he gives to students to get them excited about the new year, he said he does try to "drip in what we will be starting in the new term" and, for some areas, that can be quite exciting.
"We have a new STEAM curriculum at Dubai British School, so telling students they are going to be creating an AI Mars Rover, or their own digital banking system can lead to a fair bit of excitement."