Teachers should extend lunch breaks when schools return: education experts

Education experts at Australian Catholic University say teachers should bring back a sense of joy to student learning and extend lunch breaks when schools resume in October.

ACU Associate Professor Miriam Tanti explained that school children’s mental health had been severely negatively impacted during COVID-19 lockdowns and, to successfully educate, teachers needed to address the issue.

“Tragically, recent studies show that young Australians are really struggling with their mental health,” Associate Professor Tanti said.

“During the last weeks of the school year, teachers should focus on giving their students a sense of joy towards their learning experiences and consider extending break times. Teachers should be stripping back the curriculum, focusing on a smaller set of outcomes.

“When children were learning from home, the teaching and learning didn’t stop, it just looked different.

“Many teachers reported the technologies allowed them to provide their students with far more timely and individualised feedback.

“However, while there has been much talk about learning losses, getting teachers to spend valuable classroom time focused on minimising any losses would not be beneficial for the last weeks of the school year.

“The purpose of education is not just to develop mathematics and literacy content knowledge and skills but also the holistic development of each child, which post-pandemic, should be largely centred on social and emotional wellbeing and self-confidence.

“Understandably parents are anxious about their children falling behind in school studies, but these are exceptionally difficult times which require very specific teaching approaches.

“Upon return to classrooms, teachers will know exactly where their students are and what they will need.”

Fellow ACU education expert Dr Chrissy Monteleone agreed and added that parents needed to trust teachers to provide a positive and holistic approach at school.

“I encourage parents, where possible, to join in on the fun and encourage your child to practice wellbeing. An extension of recess and lunch break, resulting in less structured class time, is beneficial for children who have been in extended lockdowns and will help them to re-engage with school friends and build their social skills.

“A focus on practical subjects such as music, visual arts, drama, dance, technologies workshops, languages, personal development, health and physical education represent valuable educational opportunities for play-based activities.”

Teachers were recommended to maintain those home learning tools which gave children autonomy and choice. For example, the use of short video recordings to give explicit teaching instruction and the use of learning management systems that house resources and allow for both collaboration and teacher feedback.

Parents were encouraged to practice a calm and reassuring manner and reinforce strategies which help their child to manage their emotions.

Associate Professor Tanti said that children will behave in unique and diverse ways when returning to school.

“Some children will be excited to return to school and see their teachers and peers, others will demonstrate anxiety to return to school. That’s why it is important for parents to speak with teachers where there is a concern, so their child’s transition back to school is a positive one.”

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