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AISM’s Head of Junior School Shares Tips on Managing Back-To-School Jitters

Published by SchoolAdvisor | Oct 27, 2021
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AISM's Head of Junior School, Ms Michelle Chaplin, shares her thoughts on the efforts to make the school a safe and happy place for students.

Australian International School Malaysia (AISM) has welcomed its Junior and Senior School students back into physical learning with an appropriate amount of social distancing to ensure the safety of all students is guaranteed on AISM’s campus.

Prior to school reopening, the school had maintained a high level of communication with parents and students. By exhibiting the arrangements in the classroom to parents and students, AISM’s teachers were able to build students’ excitement to return to school while alleviating fears parents may have regarding their child’s health and safety at school.

Among the other precautionary steps was setting up Junior School teams that help address concerns and welfare of everyone at school. “We have our Junior School teams who have been meeting each week to talk about making sure the students are feeling good, safe and happy when we come back to school,” said Ms Michelle Chaplin, the Head of Junior School at AISM.

Best International School in Malaysia Australian International School Malaysia (AISM)Head of AISM Junior School, Ms Michelle Chaplin, with a student.

The Junior School teams are made up of student representatives from each year. Ms Chaplin explained that the representatives will remind their peers to wear masks correctly and encourage them to habitually clean and sanitise their hands. She continued by saying that this process helps with building students’ responsibility as they, too, are aware of the dangers of the virus.

The Head of Junior School elaborated on the considerations when it came to students’ movement on campus. “Fortunately, AISM’s campus is spacious, so students are able to utilise various spaces for eating in the outdoors as long as everyone is socially distanced,” she explained. AISM is built on a 7.5-acre land and can accommodate approximately 1,000 students at a time.

Additionally, the school has set up different meal times and students will be eating at their designated places in the spacious canteen or in other words, their ‘bubble’. This ‘bubble’ approach is also applicable in classrooms as the school is currently limiting students’ movement on campus.

Best International School in Malaysia Australian International School Malaysia (AISM)AISM has designated two students per table during lessons, activities and during mealtime.

For music classes, the school had decided to designate set instruments for every year. For example, the recorder for Year 2, ukulele for Year 3 and Years 4 and 5 will be learning the violin. This will help avert cross-contamination through musical instruments.

Communicating Effectively with Parents

As schools reopen, parents often beg the question: Are schools really safe?

The theme ‘Better Together’ has been used throughout the Covid-19 pandemic at the school, imploring parents to ‘please tell us.’ Ms Chaplin, her team, and the rest of AISM’s staff have practised this method to iron out the worries and concerns parents are facing when sending their children to school. 

AISM welcomes any parent to drop by the school to meet the teachers or book a tour, said Ms Chaplin. “At 8 a.m. before the children arrive at school, we can organise to meet parents and we can show them around the campus. We can discuss what’s happening in the meeting room that we have set up and constantly sanitised.”

The teachers are also open to having an online meeting at the end of each lesson which also allows them to see the classroom from their laptops. The school also sends out newsletters weekly to showcase how the younger students are coping at school.

The school has been running at a 20% capacity and teachers work on a rotational basis. Ms Chaplin reassured that staff, including cleaners and security guards, are fully vaccinated and the AISM campus is currently operating at a controlled number.

Best International School in Malaysia Australian International School Malaysia (AISM)AISM teachers and students adhere to the SOPs in class and around the campus.

With standard operating procedures (SOPs) set into place, what about students who appear unwell?

“We have a nurse on campus. If the child wants to go home, they can go do so. We are also equipped with self-testing kits and we are ready to inform parents as needed, but again, we do not want to overwhelm parents.”

Helping Children To Acclimatise Themselves At School

AISM realised that students do not get the opportunity to properly socialise with their peers during the Movement Control Order (MCO).

The school is introducing the programme ‘Play is the Way’, which takes place for 20 minutes a day to encourage interaction between the students with fun games while maintaining social distance. The games the children play do not require any equipment and they are able to run around--strengthening their gross motor skills.

Best International School in Malaysia Australian International School Malaysia (AISM)AISM introduces 'Play is the Way' and a little gardening programme to help with students' gross and fine motor skills and socialising skills.

Ms Chaplin added, “The children didn’t have real opportunities to run around when they were at home. Our Foundation students came back, saying, ‘My legs are really tired. I can’t run anymore,’ because they are not used to it. I’ve never heard any five or six-year-olds say that.”

Not only do these games help them socialise and improve their gross motor skills, they help the students learn courtesy with their friends such as queueing and taking turns, and listening to instructions.

“Another thing that we have done is introducing a little gardening program where we encourage the children to grow a plant.” This section of the school is a designated quiet place for the students to temporarily escape from the hustle and bustle on campus. They are welcome to help look after the plants or mingle with their friends.

Advice For Parents on Back-To-School Season

Ms Chaplin is aware of the anxiety parents are facing surrounding back-to-school season, especially when Covid-19 is still rampant in the country.

“You dress your child, pass them their masks, lunch box and drink bottle and put in 10 spare masks into their bags. Before leaving home, remind them to wash their hands before getting into the vehicle and do the same once they arrive at school. You don’t want to turn it into a disciplinary matter,” she said.

Students are highly encouraged to bring 10 spare masks as they are advised to change their masks regularly to ensure the effectiveness of the masks. These 10 masks may last for a week or as few as 3 days.

She continued, “There are trendy masks that the students can opt to wear. They can wear them, provided that they keep them in their bags afterwards and change into disposable masks so the trendy mask can get washed at home.

“It is a good approach to wearing masks. It is like an accessory as opposed to something that is a nuisance,” Ms Chaplin added.

As the state of Selangor reached Phase 4 in the National Recovery Plan, students in the Early Years, Foundation, Final Exam year are attending classes daily, as the other classes return to campus according to the SOP’s Junior School (Years 1, 2 and 3) and Senior School (Years 9, 10 and 11) are attending physical classes in there own ‘Bubbles”. More updates can be found on AISM’s website.

AISM is introducing its Open Week from 25th to 30th October 2021. Learn how your child can experience world-class Australian education in the heart of Kuala Lumpur and receive a fee waiver worth more than RM20,000! Please visit aism.edu.my for more details and get in touch with the Admissions Team today!


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