Yesterday, during her daily Covid briefing, first minister Nicola Sturgeon noted: “Today is an important milestone and will be a great relief to many parents across the country. And it has been made possible by the sacrifices we have all made to bring case numbers down.”
She was, of course, talking about the much-anticipated return to face-to-face schooling for a number of students across Scotland. Students in the early years, P1-3 and some senior school students (dependent on their subjects) returned yesterday. It is a return that will be met with equal amounts of relief and apprehension.
Relief felt by staff, students and parents at the return to some semblance of “normal” – although this far into things, we’d all be forgiven for having slightly hazy memories of what “normal” is – and apprehension about whether the return has been timed correctly, given the number of unknowns we face.
By the same writer: 'Teachers' work at home will help schools for years'
Back to school in Scotland: The view at the school gate
John Swinney: Mass 8 March return not possible in Scotland
Covid catch-up: What's the secret to 'catch-up'? Love
One thing that bears remembering this week, though, is that there are far more staff, students and parents still doing their best while working extremely hard from home. It’s understandable, then, that today, when much of the media coverage is about how things are “getting back to normal”, that, for a lot of us, things feel at their most abnormal.
When the world is telling you everything is one way but your own observations tell you a different story, it’s not unexpected to find that it generates an odd feeling in your gut.
So, what is the point in writing this piece?
In short, it’s to tell everyone, myself included, that it’s OK:
It’s OK to still be unsure and feel nervous about what’s going on.
It’s OK to feel like things are moving too fast.
It’s OK to feel like things are moving too slow.
A fantastic, upbeat, safe, socially distant start. Alina leading the charge. Welcome back .. cheering the sun, spring, hope and reframing learning @maureen0207 @ScotGovEdu @TesScotland @GlasgowCC @NicolaSturgeon @BBCScotlandNews @JohnSwinney #welcomebacktoschool pic.twitter.com/tG7nlQOdoQ— St Albert's Primary (@StAlbertsG41) February 22, 2021
“Unprecedented times” is a phrase that has lost much of it’s impact throughout 2020, but now that we’re well into 2021, it bears repeating: these times are unprecedented and are likely to remain that way for some time yet.
So, students, keep trying your best. Keep engaging with as much work as you can. Keep speaking to your friends, your teachers and your parents about how you are feeling – and, most of all, keep being kind to yourself.
Colleagues, keep going. You’re doing a damn good job in a hellish situation. Keep sending emails, keep setting work, keep engaging with your charges. Thanks might feel in short supply but know that you are appreciated and that the work you do makes a difference.
Parents, keep doing your best. Teaching is a vocation that many parents feel they have had foisted upon them. It’s hard. Nerves will be frayed and tempers will be short. But keep supporting your children, listen to them, hear their concerns and, most of all, remember that, much of the time, the best answer – for all of us – will be: “Put the laptop away because things will be better tomorrow.”
Brian Donlin is a secondary teacher in Scotland