Friday, August 21, 2020

Supporting Students Back to School

I'm heading back to the classroom in a few weeks and my anxiety levels are high. I do not want to spend this post debating the facts of going back or staying home. I want to write about our students.

Face to face instruction is happening. Whether you like that or not, it is happening and teachers need to think about the impact that is going to have on our students. It is not fair that we have to manage our mental health and the mental health of students in our classroom, but we have to. We need to start every class with empathy, compassion, and grace. Please do not treat back to school like back to school 2020. It is not the same and our students deserve better. Here are some quick thoughts on making this school year the best it can be whether online or in person. 

  • Start the school year with a wellness check in with your students. This could be a survey or just side conversations with the students. We need to understand where students are starting from in a mental health way if we are going to try and teach them. Make these check-ins a normal part of your routine. Let kids know they are being listened to and supported. 
  • Please consider doing away with strict due dates on assignments. Teachers need to be flexible when it comes to work. Students are going to have a wide variety of living situations that will not be equitable across the board. Show some grace and work with students who need more time. 
  • Do not be afraid to ask for help from your students or your colleagues if you get stuck on some tech issues. You might be using different tech for the first time this year and you should not be expected to be an expert right away. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. 
  • Do not make every lesson about Covid. Let there be a space for students to escape into learning and growing without the specter of the pandemic hanging over them. They are wearing a mask in class (hopefully), they know what is going on around them. 
  • Look for a wide variety of ways to express themselves artistically. Student expression is even more important now than every before. Students will be dealing with regular growing up feelings on top of the new and confusing feelings of trying to learn during a pandemic. Artistic expression can allow them to cope and share in meaningful ways. 
  • Revisit your assessments and see if they truly meet the needs of your students learning during the pandemic. Please do not just turn your multiple choice tests into Google Forms. Consider a portfolio approach to assessment and other non-traditional ways to assess. Doing it like you have always done it is not going to cut it for students today. 
  • Find someone to talk to about your anxieties. You need to have a support group if you are dealing with a wide range of feelings. This could be a certified therapist or a close friend that is a good listener. You need to help yourself before you can help others. 
This is going to be a stressful year for everyone involved. People are going to question every decision everyone makes and nobody will truly be happy with the plan. Supporting students from a mental health standpoint will allow for a better environment for learning; whether that is in person or through the Internet. I know I have lots of fears and anxiety for myself, my family, and all of fellow educators. I look forward to the day we can all get together in person and share our stories. 

Hugs and High Fives to all of you, 

The Nerdy Teacher