The pandemic has raised issues for people around the world, including health care, equity, mental health, and more, depending on the community and the resources available. Common across communities are the children, their caretakers, and for those with access to formal education, their teachers. When originally writing this article, I wanted to focus on how to support students. However, as I have listened to teachers and parents around the world, I am writing about how to help yourselves at this time (a message about how to support students will be my next post).
Some teachers are teaching remotely, and if so, perhaps you are learning with your students. Or maybe your students don’t have access to online learning, and you’re worried about how they’re doing, how they will learn, and concerned about educational equity. Maybe you have children of your own at home going through many of the same concerns.
Think back to the first weeks of school when routines were being established, previously learned material was being reviewed, and you were getting to know students and how they’ve changed since the school closed in the summer. Possibly you remember learning new protocols, figuring out how to communicate with parents, and feeling exhausted yet exhilarated by all the newness. Remember, you got through the start of the year and found a rhythm to the days and weeks of the year and got to know your students in new ways. I invite you to consider this time to be like the start of the year.
Because the care of children is one of the commonalities we hold across communities, we also know that all students are impacted, and we will have work to do when we return, but it will be a shared workload as we learn from and with each other.
My advice to you during this time:
- Establish a schedule for yourself. I find myself wondering what day it is more often than someone my age should, and having a plan is helpful to keep us on track.
- Allow your schedule to change. Rigidity is the opposite of how most middle school educators spend our days.
- Move. Hours can go by without realizing we have not moved from in front of our screens. Remember to get up and be active, and if you need help remembering, ask a colleague to check in.
- Engage in self-care. There is a reason airline attendants tell you when flying with a small child that in case of emergency, you need to use your oxygen mask first. It’s because there is no way to take care of your child unless you are first taking care of yourself.
- Connect. We are fortunate to live in a time where connecting with others is so much easier through devices. Use this time to research a project you are interested in, look for curriculum inspiration, collaborate with colleagues.
- Focus on your family (my definition of a family is you and anyone who loves you). Remember that if you have children at home, they will pick up on our anxiety and on the continued public panic and see our concerns for our students.
- Allow for curiosity. If teaching remotely, remember kids are curious about each other and about us. They may want to “look around” each other’s spaces or ask questions. The class I taught today had “seen each other” several times already. When I began teaching, I opted not to do the background screen this first time, telling them we will do green screens in the future to limit distractions. Still, for today, if anyone wanted to show something from the space, they could do so, and we ended up having a middle school show-and-tell which was not the curriculum but was a way to connect. Learn about each other and provide some respite from the long hours sitting down.
- Be kind to yourself and others. As we spend more time away from regular routines, tensions can arise in ourselves and in our relationships. Recognizing these tensions and engaging in self-care benefits all of us.
Most of all, please remember education by its very definition is moving us from one way of thinking to another. While the way we learn, teach, live, and commune with each other is different, we in education live in a continual state of flexibility, and therefore can navigate what comes next while allowing ourselves to have a range of emotions in the process.
Jen Cort worked as a counselor, principal, and senior administrator for 25 years before moving to consulting for schools on equity, diversity, inclusion, and justice. Jen is the host of a podcast called Third Space with Jen Cort.