A Survival Guide for Teachers (the Covid-19 version)
By Stacie Boyar LMHC, MSed • www.namastacie.net
The first day of school is always such a special day! A day filled with excitement, anticipation, and joy. A brand new beginning is upon us. A day that is filled with hope! Hope for our youth; hope for a better tomorrow, hope for our future. The building is always abuzz with the hustle and bustle of teachers reorganizing their classrooms, decorating bulletin boards, color-coordinating folders. Teachers are reviewing lesson plans, sharing new ideas, discussing their summer vacations. Smiles are given by your favorite custodian, warm hugs from the office staff, and you notice the familiar smells wafting from the cafeteria. There is the prospect of eager new students dressed in their new clothes, shoes, and backpacks.
Now that the school year is underway, your excitement may be replaced with anxiety and dread. Everything has changed, nothing is familiar. Some questions you may ask yourself are: How am I going to do this? How can I possibly prepare? How will I actively engage my students? What if I can’t work the technology? One thing to remember is that we cannot control the external circumstances and challenges present this year. The good news is we can make personal changes that will help to decrease or eliminate our anxiety related to this school year.
What can I do right now:
- Sleep 7-8 hours per night
- Exercise regularly
- Eat healthily
- Engage in activities unrelated to work
- Connect with others
- Limit social media and all media
- Practice self-compassion
What can I do next week:
- Set up a dedicated workspace. This helps form a work mode versus a disconnected mode.
- Set up boundaries. Be sure to set up a designated time for office hours where the students, parents, and even administration can reach you. Respond during these hours only.
- Set up reasonable expectations for yourself and your students. By setting up small, timely, realistic goals, you will feel more fulfilled.
- Change your mindset. Think about what you have control over and make the decision to be positive. Wake up with gratitude every day.
- Stop apologizing. Instead of starting a sentence with “I’m sorry”, be specific about what you need and what you are capable of doing. Do not apologize for setting boundaries or taking time for yourself.
- Carve out time for your self-care. Self-care is not selfish.
What can I do when feeling anxious during the school year:
- Reach out to others
- Video chat, Face Time, Zoom
- Suggest a zoom book club, yoga session, or cooking club
- Connections are crucial. You’ll be glad you did it, I promise!
How can I help my students when they are anxious:
- Praise students for facing their fears.
- Model good coping behaviors.
- Validate and be supportive of your students.
- Be open and honest with your students while reminding them that there is much thought and planning put in to keeping them safe.
- Provide new and accurate information in a timely manner while allowing students to safely express their concerns.
- Provide an emotionally safe space for all students.
What can I do with my students when we are both feeling anxious:
- Deep breathing
- Support the use of comfort objects
- Teach meditation techniques
- Teach grounding techniques
Gratitude for teachers is sometimes left unspoken. Know that you are appreciated and we are grateful for you. This too shall pass and when it does our teachers will be celebrated as the heroes of the pandemic of 2020.