This blog series is aimed at helping educators in a time of uncertainty and challenge.
Does anyone else feel like Alice when she falls through the rabbit hole into a strange new world? All of the chaos that’s part of the COVID-19 pandemic leaves me feeling like I’m in some kind of absurd fictional world where my multigenerational family of six is ALL together, ALL THE TIME. While there are many silver linings like more family dinners, game nights, etc., I still find myself trying to figure out how to climb out of the rabbit hole back to some sense of normalcy. I’m struggling to grapple with the current reality in this pandemic and I’m a grown adult.
I have three children ages 16, 7, and 4. Despite my efforts to channel my inner educator and remain calm, create new routines, and provide moments of joy, my two older children haven’t been coping well with this fall through the rabbit hole. There have been several breakdowns, from scared tears to desperate attempts to run away. Their everyday lives were turned upside down and their active lizard brains are taking over. I’ve seen different versions of fight, flight, and freeze from both of them. And all of this is coming from kids who live in a mostly stable and happy environment with resources and strong emotional attachments to caregivers. Now that my household is beginning to settle and my capacity to think about the broader implications of this pandemic for children everywhere, I’m worried. I’m worried they aren’t getting enough food. I’m worried they don’t have any books. I’m worried their parents are struggling to cope. I’m just plain worried.
There are a lot of do-gooders out there donating time, money, and food to support those less fortunate. Schools are working tirelessly to get food and supplies to students, while trying to figure out what online learning will look like for the foreseeable future. All of these things matter greatly, but when I see my daughter watching her teacher on a YouTube video as she reads aloud from a chapter book, I’m reminded of the critical connection between teacher and student. Teachers hold significant power right now to calm the anxiety in students, and can do this by simply picking up the phone to call and check in. No fancy technology or planning required!
We are in the midst of unprecedented times and at the end of it all there will be many pieces to pick up. Right now, first and foremost, children need their teachers to maintain the relationships they worked so hard to establish all year. They need their teachers to ask them how they’re doing and what’s on their mind. They need their teachers to create opportunities for students to check in on each other – maybe a good old phone tree – to keep connections alive. It is when students feel safer and more secure that they will be able to transition to productive online learning.
Powerful moments can be curated to deepen students’ feelings of safety and security. Here is a list of from which to draw:
- Make five-minute phone calls. Print a class list and call the neediest students first.
- How are you feeling?
- What is making you feel happy?
- What is making you feel worried?
- What questions do you have about what’s going on right now?
- How can I help?
- Share a little bit about how you’re feeling, while offering assurance that things will get better
- Create a phone tree for students to stay connected with each other.
- Sign up for a free Zoom for Educators account and go live every day at a consistent time so students can see and hear you.
- Give students a virtual tour of your home. Introduce them to your family and pets.
- Record yourself reading from a chapter book and post a chapter a day for students.
- Start a game of good old fashioned “telephone” but actually use the phone to send along a message.
- Have students write or type letters to those in nursing homes to lift their spirits. They can either mail them themselves or snap a picture of it to you to print and mail.
- Ask students what they want to be when they grow up and tell them to stretch themselves by learning more about that career and what it will take for them to achieve it
- Break the script a bit. Record yourself doing something silly – trying a cartwheel or singing a song – to send to your students.
Stay healthy, and stay connected!
By Jackie Surratt, M.Ed., Associate, CT3