Education Institute

How educators can help

  • A successful transition back to their learning environment is an important part of a young person's recovery from illness and injury. For some students, managing their health condition is a constant part of life and they will need support from their teachers throughout their entire education. Teachers and education staff can have a remarkable impact on a young person's ability to cope with their health condition while engaging in their education. 

    Know your students well 

    Spend time getting to know your student, their strengths and their interests. Find out how they prefer to communicate and who their close friends are. This will help you to stay in touch when they are away and to notice changes or challenges when they return. Communicate and check in as often as possible, even if it is just a brief email or conversation. 

    With permission, find out who else is supporting the student and their family. This might include case workers, allied health teams and community health providers. Working closely with these professionals will allow for more consistent and effective care. 

    Be flexible and open minded 

    Be aware that plans may change several times as the student's health condition changes. Be willing to adapt and to find new solutions to problems as they arise. 

    Give your students time

    Students will quickly become overwhelmed with stress and exhaustion if teachers don't allow time for rest and recovery. It can take weeks, months or even years for students to adjust back to a busy classroom environment so show your students that you can be patient and understanding by reducing time pressures. Provide students with extra time to rest and recover, think and process information, complete tasks or assessments, move between classes or activities, and importantly, to play and have fun with their peers. 

    It can be helpful to: 

    • offer extensions for assessments and homework tasks 
    • prioritise tasks for students
    • reduce homework expectations
    • modify timetables and schedules 
    • encourage part time attendance or enrolment in fewer subjects 
    • provide a space for time out such as a quiet corner or study area
    • allow extra time for eating, drinking and going to the bathroom if required
    • provide students opportunities for social engagement, play and fun 
    • avoid putting students on the spot in the classroom
    • provide students with extra time to process, think, plan and prepare. 

    Manage expectations 

    Help your students to set reasonable, achievable goals and reassure them that you don't expect them to 'catch-up' on everything they might have missed while they were away or unwell. When setting tasks or learning goals, be realistic and provide opportunities for success.

    Ask and listen 

    Students often know better than anyone what they need to help manage their health condition at school. What works for one student may not be helpful for another. Ask students what they would find most helpful and, where appropriate, include them in conversations and planning about returning to school. 

    Be organised and proactive 

    When students and families are juggling their education and their health condition it can be harder for them to stay organised and keep track of schedules, tasks and resources. Teachers can help by making organisation a priority. 

    • Teach students to use planners, diaries or calendars and check that important dates or events have been recorded.
    • Use visual tools and schedules.
    • Provide clear expectations, timelines and regular reminders.
    • Email reminders, timelines or checklists to parents and carers.
    • Provide students and their families with a list of important dates for each term so they can plan ahead.
    • Check and ensure that the student has access to passwords, library books, laptops and devices, online texts and resources. 
    • Ask about upcoming appointments or hospital admissions and help students prepare for planned absences.
    • Give clear instructions and guidelines for learning tasks and ensure students have all of the resources they need. 
    • Avoid giving students new tasks or information at short notice. 
    • Contact the Education Institute and share resources, learning goals and unit planners with RCH teachers if the student has a hospital admission approaching. 

    Be creative and innovative

    Use the opportunity to bring new, creative strategies to your classroom. Teachers often discover that in finding ways to support one student with a health condition, most other students in the class benefit too. 

    • Try using new technologies and resources.
    • Find ways to record or capture lesson content such as podcasts, photos, presentations and videos. 
    • Experiment with various communication tools.
    • Use online learning platforms and learning management systems more extensively. 
    • Adapt and modify existing tasks and resources to make them more inclusive. 
    • Use more visual tools and break complex tasks down into simple steps. 
    • Find new ways to share feedback such as through audio messages or phone conversations.

    Provide routine and a sense of normal 

    Most students just want to 'feel normal' and be treated in the same way as their peers and classmates. Reinforcing routines and expectations can be reassuring and help students to maintain a sense of normal life during illness and treatment.

    Ask for help

    Teachers are not expected to manage a student's entire transition on their own. Don't hesitate to seek help and use other resources when supporting a student with a health condition. Ask families, medical teams, allied health professionals and community organisations for help and advice.

    Enlist the help of leadership teams and other staff members in your school or kindergarten such as social workers, wellbeing counsellors, psychologists, career advisors and learning support staff. Educate students and their families about the supports available to them in your education setting and make referrals to ensure the student has access to all necessary funding options or services.