Abrupt school building closures and remote learning have been difficult for students and educators alike, and the return from break undoubtedly raises mixed emotions and needs for all involved. While many schools and teachers have been working to address the wellbeing of students and staff throughout the COVID-19 crisis--as well as protests against the injustices that plague our systems, the emotional concerns and needs arising will continue well beyond the new year.
According to Marshall Street, a leading education thinktank, “a strong and thoughtful approach to wellbeing for all members of a school community means planning for adult and student emotional care and learning.” At Teaching Matters, we see you and we hear you, and we want to support you and your students’ wellbeing during this otherwise joyful time of year!
Teacher Wellbeing Resources:
We believe that taking care of our whole selves gives students the best teachers, and it’s with this in mind that we share some of our favorite resources for staff to restore and bring comfort during this unprecedented time.
Promote your own wellbeing with these free on-demand videos for teachers. Breathe for Change's educator wellbeing series encourages you to focus on yourself first so you can sustain quality, compassionate teaching. Also, check out this Educator Wellbeing webinar. In the experiential workshop, Dr. Ilana Nankin, Breathe for Change's founder and CEO, guides educators through a transformative mind-body wellness experience.
Try infusing personal reflection into your teaching practice. Use these reflection prompts and action steps from Facing History to incorporate self-care into your teaching. For example, ask yourself: How can I build in time for the people and activities I cherish so I don’t burn out this year?
You might also enjoy learning ways to prioritize self-care. While teaching from home during the pandemic, try these five Self-Care Tips for Teachers from Understood.org. For example, look for moments of joy and connection and hold on to them. Try writing down humorous moments, something that made you smile, or something you’re thankful for. And when school starts back, when-then sentences can help set and maintain boundaries. You might write, “When it is 10 a.m., then I take a five-minute break.” Post your when-then sentences near your work station as a visual reminder of your self-care commitments.
Finally, carve out some time for yourself with this digital teacher self-care bingo. Take a walk, call a friend, or just ditch the to-do list for an hour. Whichever way you want to play the game, have fun and do something nice for yourself--you deserve it! Another great activity for teacher teams is to remind ourselves of the importance of self-care once school starts back.
These are just a few of the many opportunities for school staff to take care of themselves. After all, increased adult learning in social-emotional skill development has been linked to improved job satisfaction and reduced teacher burnout, improved personal wellbeing for educators, and safe learning environments for students.
Student Wellbeing Resources:
Speaking of students, Turnaround for Children recommends focusing on physical, emotional, and identity safety, as you empower students to enact self-care to promote comfort during the school year. We couldn't agree more!
Since the spring, we have continued to turn to Wide Open School, a site powered by Common Sense Media that helps families and educators find trusted resources to enrich and support distance learning. Every day students can access free, high-quality learning activities across grade levels, all in one place. More than 80 partners and supporters have come together to meet the change in learning needs of students, teachers, and families due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Here are some of our favorites...
Your Year: What were the best things that happened this year? What were the hardest? Record them by drawing, making a collage, or writing. Ask someone at home to help!
Pass the Appreciation: Gather the family in a circle. Grab a ball or a pillow, toss it to someone, and say something you appreciate about them. Keep it going!
Love All Around: Color paper hearts and cut them out. Then write messages on each one, and place them around the house for your family members to find.
Reflect on the Year: Explain or show what this year has been like for you using words, art, music, Minecraft—whatever works. How have world events affected you?
Looking Forward: What are you looking forward to? What goals do you have? Find a way to show or explain the things you want to make happen.
Create a Kindness Challenge: Think of a way members of your household can show kindness to each other this week. How can you help each other or make the day better?
The Year in Review: 2020's been quite a year, so take some time to make something that conveys your experiences and feelings. Use whatever medium you'd like.
Setting Some Goals: What are some goals you want to set for yourself? What steps can you take to reach them? Post them, and adjust along the way!
- What Matters: Print out these cards that each represent different values. Use the activities to reflect on which values matter most to you and then express why.
Breathe and Be Thankful: Watch this video, think about what being thankful means to you, and take a few minutes to reflect and refresh.
If I Ruled the World: Reflect on your biggest concerns with the world today, and imagine how you would make change in your local community and beyond.
Where Are You From? Celebrate your identity and your community with this self-paced writing and reflection activity.
Hunt Down Ways to Help: Use this site to discover all types of volunteer opportunities and ways to get involved with important causes.
Hopefully, you have found something that inspires you to center students’ joy and wellbeing while they were away from school. In addition to Wide Open School, organizations like the Council for Exceptional Children and CASEL have targeted resources for addressing the wellbeing of diverse learners, including CASEL’s District Resource Center with examples and tools available for free upon registration. Also, don’t miss out on the WE Well-being Playbook, a hands-on guide filled with everyday tools, actions, and tactics to nurture your own mental wellbeing and the wellbeing of others.
Keep in mind, families will continue to look to schools as a community of support and network of resources to address needs outside of school, and with extended school closures, students and families may not have access to community-based resources (Marshall Street, 2020).
Our role as teachers is often to help bridge the gap between what students have and what they need. All of us are better off when we and our students are comfortable and filled with joy!
Marshall Street (2020): COVID-19 Rapid Response: Summer Planning: Wellbeing in the Back-to-School Transition
By Lance W. Ozier, EdD