Welcoming Our Youngest Students Back To School
WRITTEN BY LAURA SIO, INFANT CARE COORDINATOR AUSTRALIAN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL SINGAPORE
In early June 2020, with the easing of Singapore’s Circuit Breaker measures, AIS Infant Care re-opened our doors to welcome our learning community back to school. AIS’ Infant Care caters to babies aged two months through to 18 months. We have re-opened under strict regulations from the Singaporean Government and to high quality standards set by AIS, ensuring that we protect the health and safety of AIS’ youngest students.
Home-based learning for infants
During the Circuit Breaker period, we connected with our children and families through daily ‘live sessions’ that were intentionally crafted by our teachers. We also posted learning engagements to our online platform, Storypark, as additional support to parents. These activities could be completed at a time which best suited individual family routines.
Whilst home-based learning provided for valuable – and heart-warming – interaction; teachers, learners and families did miss face-to-face engagement. As Prime Minister Lee announced the easing of Circuit Breaker, we were all excited at the thought of being back together.
Back to school: What’s changed?
As AIS implemented a staggered re-opening in June, our staff faced new logistical and pedagogical challenges. However, we tackled the transition back to school as a team under strong leadership from our hardworking Head of Early Years, Rachael Symes.
We have implemented entirely new processes and procedures, such as on-arrival scanning of individual learners and staggered drop-off and pick-up times for children across the Early Learning Village as well as regular temperature screenings throughout the day and consistent, regular sanitising of our hands, resources and touchpoints. Our staff also wear masks if they are within one metre of a child and washing hands upon interacting with each child has become second nature. During mealtimes, we now only invite two children to a table with the support of one teacher.
And what has stayed the same?
Despite these additional health and safety measures, the way in which we nuture and support the emotional wellbeing of the children entrusted to our care has not changed.
On our first day back at school, we eagerly awaited the return of our learners. Naturally, we were nervous to see how our children would respond to us after such a long break as well as to our new safety procedures… we were pleasantly surprised! The reunions between children, peers and teachers were uplifting; some of our babies raced into their classrooms without even looking back to say goodbye to Mum or Dad! Of course, there were some tears and, understandably, some learners who needed more emotional comfort. This is, however, all in a ‘normal day’ at Infant Care, and in no time at all, children were re-acquainting themselves with our learning spaces.
Emotional support for young learners
The emotional support provided to learners in Infant Care is based on our values of love, care and respect. This approach has helped our children settle back into group care with ease. We acknowledge our learner’s individual emotions and use affirming statements such as ‘I hear you’ and ‘I’m here for you’ to offer a secure, calm space which allows children to release their feelings. This sends children a powerful, affirming message that each thought, desire and emotion as well as every expression of mind, body and heart, is acceptable, appropriate and lovable. Feeling ‘heard’ and ‘understood’ allows children to experience emotions, to let go and to move on.
Our return to in-school learning has reminded teaching staff of how capable, competent and resilient AIS’ youngest learners truly are. The seamless manner in which our children settled back into their daily rhythms and rituals is testimony of their strong sense of belonging and security in Infant Care.