The Pandemic Effect – What Can We Do For Ourselves So We Can Help Our Students?
The pandemic and its impacts-societal, familial, individual-will be studied for years to come. The pandemic is still with us as we move into summer and school year 21/22. Life continues to change, but in pockets. While we see positive signs, it is impossible not to feel some level of continued pandemic-related anxiety. Wide-spread media coverage, uncertainty, and health-protecting measures all continue. Some sources are starting to report that Covid is being considered the first truly global event, in that there is no one on the planet who hasn’t been affected by it to some degree.
Naturally as educators, we have very real concerns about Covid’s effects on our students. We worry about learning loss and emotional impacts that may be affecting every child. We have concerns about how changes in modes of learning delivery unsettle our families. We have particular apprehension about our students who have lived through or are currently experiencing trauma in their lives, and for whom this global crisis adds another layer of distress.
Trauma-informed practices in education are becoming more prevalent in schools as educators and administrators create frameworks to respond to its impacts in children, and help families get the resources they need. We look to our mental health professionals to help us recognize and make distinctions between fear, anxiety, depression, and traumatic stress in our students, and to help us effectively reach them. The degree and severity of the pandemic’s impact is wide and we won’t know its full impact until many years from now. We do know, however, that it’s not only our students that are suffering.
What about the Teachers
To be truly effective for our students, we have to take care of ourselves. Think of the analogy of the loss of pressure on an airplane. Before giving the oxygen mask to a child, you are asked to take a breath first. That’s because you can’t help that child seated next to you if your needs are not addressed. Knowing what is known about mitigating the effects of crisis and trauma through connected and stable relationships with our students, it’s incredibly important to provide support to our teachers as well.
A 2013 Gallup report found that teaching is tied with nursing as one of the most stressful jobs in the US. As the pandemic forced teachers to perform superhuman feats of adaptation within an atmosphere of shifting expectations, it is understandable if many educators feel they are at the breaking point. The professional pressure is exacerbated by things like personal responsibilities such as children or other family members in the house who also need attention. We feel an incredible responsibility to our students who depend on us to be the reflection of stability, when our own wells are so very dry. We know we should be taking care of ourselves in order to refill and refuel. Many of the things we know are successful for traumatized students are also good for the adults who care for them. Self-care and calming behaviors are key. Yet many teachers feel that there is no time to do so, and that self-care becomes yet another thing to do.
Caring Together: A Paired-Benefit Model
Thinking about our practices and shifting our habits to a paired-benefit model may be the answer. If we integrate caring for ourselves while helping students do the same, it doesn’t become something extra that we have to do to replenish our bodies and psyches. And, we are modeling healthy behaviors very explicitly for our students. They see someone that is important in their life using healthy habits to manage frustrations, uncertainties, and fears. This chart shows some examples to get you started thinking about how to incorporate a paired-benefit model in your classroom or school.
|What teachers can do to help themselves||What teachers can do to help students||Resources|
|Pause and check-in with yourself; become aware of your breathing and try to take brief deep-breathing breaks throughout the day||Teach students pausing and deep-breathing habits; doing these together will benefit you and your students and will help your students learn supportive habits through your model||Meditation or calming apps that you can put on your phone can be played and practiced with your students|
|Nourish yourself by finding things that make you feel happy; check in with people that you enjoy being around||Take time during the day for a “happy pause”-have students engage in an activity or share happy thoughts with a classmate||Use journaling time to name things that bring joy or gratitude; use it as a place for reflection on what was happy about the day, journaling is powerful in the actual physical act of recording and provides a gift of proof-of-resiliency when the writer re-reads their entries|
|Look for safe and substantial virtual resources to use with your students that focus intrinsically on social-emotional skills support; knowing there are other supports for your students to continue the work you are doing with them in class can help you and your students||Help students engage in face-to-face social-emotional skills; show them how to practice at home with high-quality virtual resources that mirror the work you’ve been doing in class||Look for learning companies that have narratives built around social and emotional learning core-competencies; when students read stories that model healthy, positive behaviors, they can internalize them as they are ready|
These skills and others can be paired to strengthen all, together. Take the time to investigate other ways to add to your own paired-benefit model, and then begin the practices. Take care of yourself. You need you, your students need you, and KneoWorld needs you.