Relationships: More important now than ever before.
This is a repost and certainly as timely now as it was in March 2020. This blog series is aimed at helping educators in a time of uncertainty and challenge.
The cornerstone of being a No-Nonsense Nurturer is building meaningful relationships – with students, their families, and our colleagues. During this time of COVID-19, most schools are closed and quickly trying to connect with and teach their students in virtual learning spaces, changing the way we build relationships with our students and our communities.
As the [former] CEO of CT3, I feel the responsibility to immerse myself in medical journals and pieces on how the pandemic will affect the US economy. I do this to support my team and the many teams of educational leaders we support across the country. One thing that I’ve noticed is missing in the materials I am reading is a narrative on the emotional and psychological toll isolation will play on our most vulnerable communities – youth, the elderly, homeless, low income folks, people of color, etc.
I mentioned this observation on a webinar I conducted on Monday about my book, Every Student, Every Day. The chat throughout the webinar remained busy with folks noting how they missed their students, their classrooms, and their routines; however, it was compelling to see how the chat blew up with educators acknowledging that they hadn’t thought a lot about the role social distancing and isolation will play for their students – in the long and short term. As an organization focused on supporting youth and educators, CT3 is also thinking about additional ways we and fellow educators might best support students during this unique time in our history.
Many of the students we serve everyday rely on us as a constant, caring, and consistent adult in their life. Not seeing teachers for an unplanned, extended period of time will take a toll on each of our students, and in many different ways. Remember, teachers are some of the most important adults in their lives, so it is important that we reach out on a regular basis to check in on our students. This will help to alleviate the emotional toll and create hope for our students during this time of uncertainty. Relationships are more important now than ever before.
Some ideas on how to stay connected:
- If you are conducting remote learning because all of your students have devices, create a ritual with each virtual classroom experience to connect and check in with students. Begin class with an open-ended free write. Or, have students post in the chat, privately or publicly, how they are doing. Have them share a funny story or two before you begin instruction for the day, all with the intention to make a personal connection.
- If you don’t have a virtual classroom set up, no worries, you too can stay connected with your students with the good old fashion telephone. For middle and high school teachers, commit to calling every student for 10-15 minutes each week. Split up your classes and take time each day to connect for the purpose of relationship building. For elementary and self-contained classrooms, call your students every other day. Some question ideas for these relationship-building phone calls:
- How are you doing? How have you been feeling over the past few days?
- What excites or makes you nervous about having to stay at home?
- What is the thing you miss most about not having school every day?
- How is your family doing?
- How much time are you spending watching the news/checking social media? Are these healthy behaviors for you?
- What are you grateful for today?
- Do you feel safe? Do you have everything you need?
- You can also share funny stories from your house, have a joke of the day ready, or share how your schedule at home is working/not working.
- Consider starting a letter writing campaign. The USPS is still delivering mail. Writing letters will exercise your students’ reading and writing skills while making connections. Include stamps and envelopes in your first letters to students so they can write back to you! These will likely become some of your most cherished possessions. You can have stamps and supplies delivered to your home from the USPS.
- Start a text group with your students. Many students have phones – or at least access to a phone – so start a text group to stay connected. Text a question of the day for student responses, post a favorite song and have a virtual dance party, or have students post “funny face pictures” or an emoji that best represents how they are feeling. Have them share photos of the place they are studying every day. Keep the text stream lively and be sure everyone feels included and is engaged. This will keep you connected and will enable students to share some powerful emotions and ideas with one another. Remember…a picture is worth a thousand words and doesn’t take long to compose!
In the end, we need to stay connected and carve out time to build relationships with the youngsters we care so deeply about. It will make this experience far less traumatic for them (and each of us) and we can build on the relationships that are so important in a new and essential way. These relationship-building activities will also help to support the transition back to school…whenever that happens!
Stay safe and healthy, teaching warriors! You are in my thoughts as we collectively take on the challenge of supporting our students from afar.
Call to Action: Please share your ideas!
You all have much better ideas than I do. In the comment section below, please post your ideas to share with your peers! I am happy to update this blog and our social streams with your fabulous ideas. Thank you for your continued dedication!
We’ll be sending along more tips to help us all through these challenging times.
Yours in this (unexpected) work,
By Kristyn Klei Borrero, Co-Founder, CT3