Helping students develop their own support networks and recognising the stress and pressure of the past 18 months on children, families and staff will be front of mind for everyone at Alfredton Primary School on Thursday when they mark R U OK? Day.
The school will be even more yellow than usual - in person and online - as they adopt the movement's signature colour in addition to the usual yellow of their uniforms.
Teacher Gabrielle Mathieson said after two years of COVID disruptions and the stress and uncertainty around the virus it was more important than ever to ensure everyone had the right supports around them.
In addition to their daily online meets and regular class wellbeing checks, students will have specific R U OK? lessons on Thursday centered around finding their own support network, and providing support to those who need it.
R U OK?Day is tomorrow and we're happy to have Healthy Harold and his friend Lisa on board.— R U OK? (@ruokday) September 8, 2021
We've created a video for primary school students of all ages to help them support their friends. Watch this video and download other resources for students at: https://t.co/NfksHQ3NEGpic.twitter.com/UbgKkLq8ao
"We'll look at how they develop their own bank of people they can get support from, and how to ask if someone is ok and what to do if they say 'I'm not ok'," Ms Mathieson said.
The contribution of staff over the difficult past 18 months will also be celebrated, with coffee cards, biscuits, chocolates and wellbeing resources sent to teachers, education support and other staff on the day or through the week.
"We are helping the whole community focus on mental health and wellbeing," she said.
Alfredton Primary is one of many schools across the region marking R U OK? day on Thursday after a challenging 18 months.
"This time everyone seems more stressed because of the unknown," Ms Mathieson said. "Now we are at the point where everyone is on edge, are we coming back tomorrow or the next day, or going in to lockdown.
"We find out so rapidly and have to change plans ... and our families are struggling a lot more this time around even in terms of motivation."
This lockdown there are more children attending Alfredton Primary as children of parents working authorised jobs, or those deemed vulnerable.
"Having more kids at school is also tricky to manage as they still have to do the remote learning platform. We really feel for all our families but we are almost at the end of term and hopefully we'll have a full term four at school."
Ms Mathieson said the rapid turnaround from classroom to online learning had hit teachers hard.
"We work in to the night if that happens. The last lockdown we found out on the Friday that we were back to remote learning on the Monday which meant the whole weekend was spent planning. The work we do remotely is so different because we have to expect the kids to work mostly independently, but at school it's explicit teaching and the content is really different," she said.
"More importantly is recognising that our kids come back really unsettled and out of sorts. They are just trying to figure out how to socialise again, especially if it's been a longer lockdown. Then there are the ones that do enjoy remote learning and coming back to school is a lot for them ... it's juggling a lot of different things when they come back but we are so happy when they come back and would go through anything to see them again."
IN OTHER NEWS
R U OK? chief executive Katherine Newton said the national day of action reinforced the importance of staying connected with friends, family and colleagues through all of life's ups and downs, big or small.
"R U OK? is encouraging all Australians to pause and consider how the people in their world are really going, and to make asking 'are you OK?', a part of their everyday," Ms Newton said.
"None of us are immune to life's challenges whether that's a relationship breakdown, financial worries, work pressure or, sadly for some, the loss of a loved one," said Ms Newton. "Sometimes it won't be obvious that someone is having a hard time but we know that when we ask early and in a genuine way, we can help someone who might be struggling feel connected and supported, long before they are in crisis."
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