Wellbeing is always a priority for me, and I know for many of you too, but is our desire to catch them up with missed academic work causing us to forget the most important thing this year – mental health. Most children are now back to school now, whether it is in the classroom or working remotely from home. Some have missed six months of schooling and teachers and parents are understandably concerned about the long term impact this will have on their children.
It has been a year of great learning for everyone. Teachers have had to learn to teahc in ways they never imagined they would have to; most had never heard of Google Classrooms or Zoom at the start of 2020. They have had to create contingency plans sould we go back into lockdown again before the end of the year. Most importantly they have had to learn to teach their students without being able to see their reactions. Anyone who has every spent time in a classroom knows how important it is to be able to see the look on a child’s face as you explain an activity. As professionals we constantly scan the room to assess who is going to need a little extra help with today’s lesson. This is so much harder when they are all dotted about on a tiny screen.
Teachers really are amazing
It has really made the many layers of teaching more clear too. Most people don’t realise that teachers don’t just educate the children in their care, they notice whether they are wearing the same clothes every day, whether they look hungry and don’t have a lunch, if they look tired or worried and so much more. Teachers are truly incredible but their job has become harder in the current situation. As I type, many teachers are attempting to teach to a classroom full of children whilst also guiding pupils who are isolating at home to ensure they don’t fall behind.
This year has undoubtedly been the most challenging year most teachers have ever known. Depsite that they continue to give it everything they have.
There is so much pressure to get children caught up on the work they have missed, because despite the fact that teachers have been working hard sending lessons home, unfortunately not all children could access those lessons. Everyone is concerned about the impact this has had, particularly on our most vulnerable children.
Don’t get me wrong, I am as concerned about this issue as anyone, what I do know though is that if we focus purely on academics our children are not going to make the desired progress.
Change can adversely affect wellbeing
This has been a very difficult year for most children. They have had health worries, they may be aware of financial challenges, they have missed their friends and family… and now just when they thought that life could return to normal they have returned to the security of school to find that everything is different there now too!
The classrooms look different, they have to use hand sanitiser, they may have to eat their lunch in the classroom, they can’t play with friends from other classes…
All this change can add up to a whole world of anxiety for some children.
We know that when children feel stressed or anxious they can’t learn. Their rational brain shuts down and they cannot retain or recall information and they certainly can’t achieve their full potential.
If we want our children to be able to catch up on the content they have missed this year the first thing we must do is to focus on their emotional wellbeing. Help them feel calm and safe at school again and then watch them flourish.
What can we do to help our children’s wellbeing at school?
Obviously the most important thing is to be as consistent as possible. Familiarity feels secure. Yes things have changed, but they will quickly settle into a new routine and the new rules.
I know I go on about the importance of breathing properly and using your breath to calm your body, but that’s because it is by far the most effective way to ease stress and anxiety. It is so simple. If you aren’t familiar with the many breathing techniques you can use to help your class breathe for calm pop over to my free resources and grab everything you can!
Take time to talk
Talk to your class about their experiences, let them know that it’s ok if they don’t want to talk publicly about how they feel but give them an opportunity to talk to you alone if you can. There are some worksheets to help you with this in my A Calm Return Pack and also included in the School Subscription Package.
Focus on the here and now
Don’t worry about where they should be, what they ought to have done and where they need to be by the end of the term/year. Focus on what they are doing now and how well they are coping with that. It can feel insurmountable when we are asked to look at everything we need to have achieved by a certain point. Equally looking back at what we should have done can be excruciating for the children who were unable to complete that work (not always through any fault of their own it is important to remember). Concentrate on what they are doing today, this week and make sure they are happy doing that and that it is achievable and grow their confidence slowly.
Whatever stage your class are at. Wherever they are learning. Whatever their personal situation, all that matters is that they feel safe and secure while they are learning. Anything is possible for any child if we can create that sense of wellbeing and allow them to learn with every fibre of their being rather than being in fight or flight mode and trying to survive.
Teachers have the power to transform the lives of so many children but the key to a successful life isn’t grades and certificates, it is confidence, self awareness and an ability to regulate your emotions. The rest can all come afterwards, if indeed it is needed. So please, continue to teach all the important things, of course our children need to read and write but layer these on top of a foundation of resilience, calm and a can do attitude and you will see your students fly!