The disruptions caused by the pandemic over the past year have made it more difficult for teachers and school staff to engage with students and actively assess how they are feeling. With this palpable physical and emotional distance, teachers have struggled to close the gap. Whether students are learning remotely or in the classroom, teachers worry and are looking for resources to help students work through the stress, trauma, and grief that they have experienced this year.
We wonder… How do we help our students talk about their concerns, their worries, and their fears? How do we help them build resilience when they are faced with so many unknowns? How do we help them overcome the loneliness of social isolation, while preparing them to transition back to in-person learning?
Join our Digital Learning Specialists as they talk to Cherie Spencer, a Social and Emotional Learning Coordinator, about how we can help reduce our students’ anxiety by sharing our vulnerabilities, prioritizing emotional connections to help build resilience, and supporting them with practical self-regulation strategies.
What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation…
Glenn Close, actress
The following are resources available on AVID Open Access to explore this topic in more depth:
- Create Community and Nurture Connections to Support Social and Emotional Learning (article collection)
- Meet Students’ Social and Emotional Needs During Remote Learning (article collection)
- Foster a Growth Mindset for Teachers and Students (podcast episode)
- Celebrate: Building Community Beyond Your (Virtual) Classroom (podcast episode)
- Practice Self-Care: Tips for Teachers and Students (podcast episode)
How to Alleviate Student Anxiety
You and your students are living through a time of historic change. To help build resilience in students, start by acknowledging how difficult the past year has been and find times to regularly celebrate milestones, both large and small, to build awareness of how often students tackle obstacles and succeed.
As students return to the classroom or continue with online learning, expect to see mood swings. Your students are at an age where their cognitive ability is outpaced by their emotional capacity. Routines have been disrupted, and the constant shifts of the everyday world have taken a toll. Consider implementing the strategies below to start your class with an emotional temperature check.
- Share a mood meter with your students. Associate an emoji with each emotion. At the start of class, ask students to reflect on how they are feeling and to choose an emotion that best represents their current state. At a glance, you will be able to see where your students are at so that you can adjust your tone, your approach, and your pace accordingly.
- Provide a Google or Microsoft form to your students every morning. Keep it brief but make sure to include the following question: Do you need time with me? This prompt will allow for students to reach out to you privately if they need a check-in.
Tips to Share With Students to Reduce Stress and Build Resilience
Share the following tips with students to help them build the muscles needed for self-awareness and self-regulation.
- Tune in to what your body is telling you. Their stomach hurts? Their heart is racing? They have clammy skin? Teach students how to do a body scan to help them take time to evaluate how they are feeling before tension and stress escalate. Too often, we expect students to know how to talk about emotional regulation without helping them recognize the physical signs they feel when “something is off.” Help students talk about how their bodies feel when they are tired, nervous, hungry, or anxious.
- Take a brain break. In order to build self-regulation skills, students need regular opportunities to take a break and self-assess. Provide diverse activities that students can explore to determine what works best for them: breathing techniques, meditation, and coloring, among many others. Explore these brain break options from WeAreTeachers to help students reset so that they can refocus on their learning process. Then, provide a space for them to practice these skills when they are not in a heightened emotional state.
- Make a list. Teach students how to create a list of things that they can do to feel more in control and less stressed. Their list may be long. To avoid feeling overwhelmed by what they can do to manage stress, encourage students to cover, or “hide,” all of the tasks except the first three. Tell them to focus on the three things that they can do right now. As they check an item off the list, they can uncover an additional self-care option.
Extend Your Learning
- The Surprise Benefits of Virtual SEL and Mindfulness Learning (EdSurge)
- Reaching Chronically Absent Students During Distance Learning (Edutopia)
- 10 Simple Ways to Build Resilience in Students in These Difficult Times (WeAreTeachers)
- The Value of Mailing Encouraging Notes to Students (Edutopia)
- How Three Nonprofits Are Connecting Kids With Diverse Mentors During the Pandemic (EdSurge)
- Educators Say Good Morning to Students—Via Video (Edutopia)
- Why Helping Grieving Students Heal Matters So Much (KQED)