How Mindfulness Can Help Students That Find School Holidays Emotionally Difficult
It's one of our most awaited times of the year! Or is it? Spring is in the air and Spring Break is almost here. For many people, the holidays are full of laughter, fun, and gathering together, but for others it can be very difficult. School is a safety net that will be taken away for a couple of weeks. Some families are struggling with critical illnesses and loss. We need to remember to be mindful of these situations as we say goodbye to our students for the break or when it is time to greet them again after the break.
When classes return after the break, some kids will feel uncomfortable sharing their holiday experiences. They may need to have time to reflect and adjust again to their safety net and the people they can trust. It is important to build in opportunities for this to happen.
Instead of having big group sharing about the holidays, maybe there could be different activities that would allow for individual sharing and reflecting as well as perhaps some special stories or anecdotes that will help the students to feel acknowledged and heard.
Each of us has a different approach for how we connect with our kids. That's what makes it genuine. Just tap into what works for you and find the balance between sharing happy moments and being there for those who are struggling.
Good mental health is so important, especially following a couple of years of pandemic restrictions and stresses. Kids need to feel that they matter and that they are loved. We need to make sure that mindfulness and SEL activities are part of everyday teaching to help our kids get through all the difficult times they may experience both physically and emotionally.
I am glad that SEL has been added to our teaching and that mental health is now considered an important part of a child's welfare and education. It hurts my heart to see so many young people struggling emotionally. We need to help them realize how special and important they are.
Thank you for all that you do in the classroom everyday to help this become a reality.
Misunderstandings can create anger, frustration, upset, arguing and even physical outbursts or fighting. It is important to find ways to solve these misunderstandings before they escalate.
Teaching SEL (social and emotional learning) to young children is an important element of fostering a safe, caring classroom environment. One essential SEL strategy for the classroom is teaching kids how to solve disagreements.
There are several problem solving strategies that can be used to help with disagreements. Five key ways of doing this include active listening, looking for win-win solutions, thinking with empathy, brainstorming possible solutions together, and using “I” statements when talking about problems and feelings.
Using "I" Statements
Often when accusations are used, emotions escalate and more conflict is possible. Using "I" statements helps take the sting away from making it sound like someone has done something wrong, shares what the speaker feels and how it personally affects them and allows for a positive conversation and resolution. When 'I' statements are used, children learn how to communicate responsibly, both listening to others and expressing their own emotions, when it comes to solving disagreements.
It's important to teach how to use "I" statements and explain how they can help with problem solving.
How to use "I" statements
Teaching how to use "I" statements effectively and the importance of using them can be done in a variety of ways, but one of the best is by role play and story telling followed by discussion. This is a chance for them to see how using "I" statements leads to understanding instead of accusations and more conflict.
Framing the "I" statement needs to be taught as well. Kids need to be able to share how they are feeling and why without blaming. This is a skill that will need some practice. The automatic reaction is to accuse when an incident occurs. For example, instead of saying "You did something wrong" they could use "I felt upset when ______ happened".
This teaches kids to become aware of their own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, when communicating about problems and feelings.
There are several techniques that can be used, including sharing stories or doing role playing activities, for finding resolutions to disagreements. This helps to keep the conversation honest while making sure each student understands they have been heard and respected. SEL can give kids the ability to respectfully listen and process emotions, whether their own or someone else's, which is essential for solving disagreements out in the real world.
Active listening and thinking with empathy
Active listening is another important part of using "I" statements. Listening to what the speaker has to say in these "I" statements gives other people involved in the situation an idea of how the speaker feels and it brings greater understanding which helps with solutions. It also encourages responsibility for the speaker to share his own thoughts and feelings.
When kids listen actively, they can better understand and empathize with others. This will help them to see how their actions may have affected others. This will help them to be open to working through the situation and brainstorming to find a compromise or solution that will work for everyone.
It also helps indicate that it's possible for everyone involved in a disagreement to get what they need without anyone feeling worse in the end.
When you teach children these strategies for problem-solving – active listening, looking for win-win solutions, thinking with empathy, brainstorming possible solutions together, and using “I” statements when talking about problems and feelings– they gain vital tools they will carry with them through all facets of their lives, from making friends on the playground to working collaboratively in their future careers.
Personal space, active listening, working with others, sharing, taking turns, making friends, being kind and so on. When it comes to teaching kids social skills and Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) lessons, it is hard to know where to start. There are so many different skills to teach.
What is SEL and why is it important?
SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) is about getting kids to feel safe in their own skin and make sure they are taking care of themselves emotionally, too. It’s also about teaching them the importance of personal space, active listening, sharing, working with others and taking turns, just to mention a few things.
SEL is an important way to help young children develop important skills and live happy, healthy lives. Teaching SEL skills sets the foundation for understanding social norms.
What does SEL look like in practice?
SEL in practice can look different in various classrooms, but here are some examples:
- kids are taking turns nicely when they are playing together
- kids are demonstrating empathy when they see someone is sad
- kids are sitting comfortably apart from one another during group time
- kids are actively listening when talking with someone by responding and reflecting back what they said
- kids are collaborating with others
- kids are sharing experiences and materials
How do we teach SEL?
Learning SEL skills such as personal space, active listening, working with others, sharing and taking turns can be challenging for young children. With thoughtful instruction using engaging stories or examples of what it looks like and feels like, teachers can help show young learners how to interact with respect and kindness.
It's important to explain what these concepts look like and feel like for young children so that they can understand the expectations.
For example, when showing them what active listening looks like, generally focus on three main ideas: making eye contact, nodding and smiling during conversation, and paraphrasing back what was heard.
Through role play, you can show children the proper distance they should keep when talking with friends and how standing closer than this would make the other person feel uncomfortable.
Young learners often thrive from collaboration when paired up with a partner for pair-share activities that help build communication skills like sharing ideas and taking turns talking.
What if SEL doesn't seem to be working?
Sometimes SEL doesn't always work out as expected or desired. There can be a variety of scenarios that need more guidance and redirection. For example:
- one student doesn't follow directions
- a child is having a difficult day
- there's too much squabbling over toys or hogging the game board
- two children are arguing or have different ideas about how to process a task together
- two students are struggling over a shared toy or not cooperating together
When SEL isn't working among the kids in your classroom, it's important to remain positive and offer some guidance. For example, reinforcing positive behavior when SEL techniques are used successfully or explaining concepts again until everyone understands. Simple redirection tactics such as calmly asking questions can also be a great way to guide playful conversations towards more positive behaviours.
It is important to refocus the energy into talking about possible solutions. Encouraging discussion around topics such as what each person wants, why respectful boundaries are important, coming up with compromises, or enabling imagination through hypothetical situations can help teach children these essential SEL skills in a safe and caring environment.
It can also be helpful to check in with each student individually and work towards understanding what their needs are - if they need more tools like visuals or if they already know the skills but need encouragement or support in using those tools consistently.
Through thoughtful guidance and clear examples of what these concepts look like and feel like in a practical setting, it is possible to foster an environment in which SEL becomes an integrated part of the day-to-day experience. Whether it be helping a child understand how being mindful of personal space boundaries feels safer for all or developing communication strategies so everyone has the opportunity to share their ideas and take turns without conflict, effective SEL can lay the foundation for productive learning environments. It's not always easy but we certainly can make SEL work for us.
It's all about making SEL fun while still emphasizing its life-long importance! It takes consistent practice and patience, but SEL makes all the difference when building positive relationships in our classrooms!
With SEL activities embedded in the routine, young kids can develop invaluable skills for interpersonal relationships throughout their lives. Ultimately SEL helps foster a sense of community, respect for others, and self-confidence within a classroom setting.
This is a social story for young kids that helps explain several positive behaviors. Sign up for my newsletter and get a free copy of this positive behaviors social story now.
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Feeling anxious, overwhelmed or out of control can be a common experience for many kids at school. To move beyond simply managing anxiety, it is critical to equip our students with coping skills, such as calming strategies that work in the classroom.
The increase in anxiety and poor mental health with children has caused us to relook at how we can develop positive self esteem and skills to regulate emotions and behaviors. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) has become a focus in many classrooms recently as a means to provide skills for kids to improve mental health and emotional well-being.
As teachers, we must take it upon ourselves to provide calming strategies so that our students can find their inner peace again. Luckily there are SEL strategies that teachers can implement in their classrooms to help students develop lifelong tools for managing stress, regulating emotions, and leading a balanced life.
Learning about self-regulation and calming techniques is only a small part of SEL. There are many other aspects to discuss as well, but these will need to be further explored in a later post. Today I would like to focus on helping kids to deal with their emotions by using self-regulation strategies.
There are many different calming strategies that can be used, but not all of them work for every child. If we teach a variety of different strategies, each child will have several techniques that they can try. In time, they will know what works well and what doesn't and they will be able to create their own toolkit of strategies.
There are many different ways to help a child calm down when he is upset, anxious, or otherwise unregulated, but in order to help him long term, it is important to actually teach him strategies rather than just grab one for him to try in reaction to the unregulated behavior.
Every child is unique, so there isn't a one size fits all answer. It is important to explore several different options and find out which ones work best for each person. Here are some examples of calming strategies that might work.
Whole Class Activities
One effective way to help kids with regulating and focusing, is to add calming and mindfulness activities into the school day. For example, starting out with a mindfulness circle in the morning and doing some deep breathing and stretching could help prepare everyone for the work ahead.
Visualization and focusing on a peaceful or happy place can also work wonders to help alleviate feelings of stress and worry.
Taking breaks for stretching and movement are important throughout the day. Body breaks and brain breaks allow kids to de-stress for a short time and prepare their minds for more work. Just like we need to take breaks throughout the day from working, so do kids.
Individual calming strategies
Set up a calming corner in an area of the classroom where kids can go when they need a quiet space by themselves to regroup and self-regulate. You might have a few different things in there to help with the refocusing. Maybe you could add some pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, glitter jars, fidgets, books, or other small items that may be comforting.
Have an area where music is available with headphones and a comfortable place to sit. Music is often very soothing and can help with relaxing and calming the spirit.
Drawing and coloring also work well.
Movement is sometimes necessary in order to self-regulate when upset. Try jumping jacks, skipping, going for a walk, delivering a message to another room, or even just pushing against a wall as ways to use physical activities to release the anxiety or upset feelings.
Breathing exercises or counting also help for some people.
The goal is not only to reduce anxiety during times of distress, but also to enable our students to become familiar with calming strategies they can apply outside of the classroom. When it comes to SEL, teachers have a toolbox full of calming strategies to choose from - so don't hesitate to use them and help kids develop their own toolboxes!
Here are some posters that might be helpful for your students. They are available for free for my newsletter subscribers. Click here to get your copy. If you are already a subscriber, you can find them on my Followers Free Resources page.
I hope these tips help with dealing with some of the anxiety that is prevalent in our schools today. Next time I will focus on another aspect of SEL.
Social Emotional Learning
As any teacher knows, dealing with kids can be a bit like herding cats. They're often full of energy, easily distracted, and prone to outbursts of emotion. But while dealing with chaotic classrooms may be exhausting, it's also important to remember that behind all the noise and mayhem are real kids with real feelings.
That's why it's so important to incorporate social and emotional learning (SEL) into our teaching. By teaching our kids tools and strategies for regulating their emotions, we can help them to develop good mental health habits that will last a lifetime.
Look for ways to support your students' mental health. When they're feeling good, they're able to learn and be successful in school. That's why social emotional learning (SEL) should be part of your classroom management plan. SEL is all about teaching kids the skills they need to regulate their emotions and avoid meltdowns and anxiety attacks.
There are many different tools that can be used for SEL. Here are a few that may be suitable for your SEL toolkit.
Drawing: When students start to feel overwhelmed, encourage them to take out a piece of paper and start drawing. It doesn't matter what they draw, as long as it's something that makes them feel calm and relaxed.
Headphones: Have headphones available to help kids focus. These can block out distracting noise and help them concentrate.
Music: Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of music to help kids refocus and get back on track.
Sensory Activities: Squeezing and releasing fists or tapping on the body can help kids release tension and calm down. Pushing against a wall can also sometimes help.
Deep breathing: This is a simple, but effective strategy that can help kids relax and avoid an anxious state.
Reading: Getting into a good book can sometimes redirect attention.
Quiet spot: A spot without distractions allows kids to just settle and calm down.
Splashing water on face: This could also snap a person out of an anxious state.
Taking a walk: Going for a quick walk or maybe delivering a message to another classroom or the office can often redirect and calm a person down.
Counting: Focusing on counting may help to calm panic feelings.
Sitting on a wiggle cushion or a ball: This may help with sensory movement and allow focusing.
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One way to support social emotional learning is to provide these tools and strategies for kid's mental health. We can teach them how to identify and label their feelings, how to understand and cope with big emotions, and how to develop positive relationships.
Additionally, we can provide opportunities for them to practice these skills through social-emotional learning activities and games. By supporting social emotional learning, we can help our kids to develop the skills they need to lead happy and fulfilling lives.
We need to be patient, kind, understanding, and present with our kids. They deserve our time and attention. When we give them that, we're helping to build a foundation of trust and love that will last a lifetime. Ultimately, every child is different and will respond to different tools and strategies.
The important thing is to have a variety of options available so that you can find what works best for each individual child. By incorporating SEL into our teaching, we can help our kids to develop the skills they need to thrive both inside and outside the classroom.
Calming Strategies Posters
Here are some posters that might be helpful for your students. They are available for free for my newsletter subscribers. Click here to get your copy.
With a toolkit of SEL strategies available, you will no longer wonder how to deal with a chaotic classroom.There may still be times when mayhem happens, but kids will have the necessary tools to manage their emotions and classroom control will be attainable.
The Power Of Self Esteem
Positive self esteem and a positive attitude is very important for success in life. I believe it can be a game changer for kids if they learn to value their self worth and uniqueness.
Kids that struggle with their own worthiness, find it hard to care about others. Helping them feel good about themselves will build self confidence and set the tone for a more successful year.
Lessons From Tigger And Eeyore
Attitude has the power to change the way the day goes. Just look at Tigger and Eeyore.
Although Eeyore is a lovable character, he see everything through dark clouds. It takes his friends to encourage him to try things out and find good in his world.
Tigger is very happy go lucky and almost too bouncy and positive at times for his friends, but he sees the fun and excitement in everything and wants them to see it too.
Imagine how it must feel for children to always see themselves as an Eeyore. “I can’t do anything right, I might as well not try because I am going to mess up. I’ve misplaced my tail again!” This won’t give them much incentive to try to do things or even imagine that life could work out well.
“Tigger” children are game to try anything and don’t worry about the outcome. Excitement and fun is the focus Because of this, they keep going and trying even when it doesn’t work out the first time.
We don’t have to be bouncing off the walls to have a positive outlook on the world, but it's important to see joy and not just negatives.
Optimism lesson suggestions
Do a lesson on optimism and pessimism using the example of Tigger and Eeyore. Expand it to share a couple of scenarios with kids in different situations that show how a positive or negative attitude affects the outcome of the situations. Discuss ways to change the situations.
Example 1: At the beach: One boy wants to swim to the dock. He talks about diving off the edge, playing water tag, doing flips and having fun. The other complains, "The water is too cold, I can't swim very well, it's too far, I'd rather stay on the beach and watch."
Example 2: The teacher introduces a new game. Sally is excited and ready to play. She gathers all the necessary equipment and asks her friend Nancy to join her. Nancy is hesitant. She worries that she won't be any good at it. She can't remember all the rules. She creates roadblocks that prevent her from trying.
Add in more activities and lessons about self worth, self confidence, and power words. This can make a huge difference to how students respond to each other and situations that arise in the classroom.
The sooner we can help kids to see that they are unique and special, the sooner they will strive to be the best they can be. Their goal should be to improve themselves and not try to be someone else.
A positive attitude is key. One of the sayings in my class was “Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?” This was a reminder for both the kids and myself that we need to check our attitudes and see if they are helping us to be successful.
In a world where we are surrounded by negative, a positive attitude is even more necessary. It is our job as teachers, to help kids see that they are valued and important and that they have much contribute to the world around them.
We also need to help them develop good team skills and support them if they slip up. If we provide them with the tools to be good team players they will soar in a competitive world, pick themselves up when they fall, dust themselves off, and continue on. They will accept the minor setbacks are part of growing, not failures and they will be able to move forward.
Some Activities And Resources
Success and Power words
Bucket filling activities
Acts of Kindness
Optimist or Pessimist Task Cards
I Am posters
Last time, I wrote about a strong classroom management plan. If you add a self esteem component to your plan, you will have a positive classroom environment and a more successful year. Remember attitude is everything. Focus on what is going right and build a caring and respectful class community with these two things. You've got this!
Positive Classroom Management Strategies and Self Esteem Go Hand In Hand
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It Is Time To Take A Break
Spring Break has arrived for many people. In fact, some districts are returning to school soon. I hope that you have been able to take some time to relax and re-energize. It is so important to take care of yourself. This has been a stressful couple of years and now that we can start doing things again, hopefully you will be able to take time to enjoy spending time with family and friends.
Many of you have finished your report cards and conferences and can now move on to the next term. Others will be preparing for assessments. Use the time off to take a mental break so you will be refreshed and ready to handle the testing and reporting ahead.
If you are getting ready to start new projects or assignments, the temptation is to do some of the work while on vacation. Although this seems like a good idea, in some cases it can have a negative effect because it can interfere with actually relaxing and de-stressing. Our bodies and minds need to take time to relax if we are to remain healthy.
Why It Is Important To Take Care Of Yourself
I had a conversation with someone the other day and she told me that she is in great pain and has anxiety because she didn't take the time needed to let her body and mind heal after a car accident and some other stresses a while back. Now whenever she gets stressed her nervous system goes into overdrive and she is in pain. She had to take a stress leave from work as a result. Her message is: Don't be in too big a hurry to get back to doing everything. Give yourself time to mentally and physically relax and recharge.
The Stress Is Real
Teaching now is harder than it has ever been and it is causing many teachers to rethink staying in the classroom. Now it is more important than ever to look after yourself so you can look after others.
This reminds me of being on an airplane and being told to put on my own oxygen mask before helping put masks on others. Our instincts tell us to help our kids first, but if we don't have an oxygen supply ourselves, we won't be able to help them. The same is true for us as teachers. If we don't have anything less to give, we can't help others.
Literacy And Math Suggestions For Spring
When you are ready to return to class, if you are looking for resources for your students that are spring themed, I have a few that might work for you. They require little preparation and they are fun activities for the kids to do.
Here are some different spring sight word resources that might be helpful for guided reading groups and literacy centers.
For Math, here are a few that will help with number recognition and place value.
As you gear up again, check out this blog post for some great projects to try for social studies. Our Solar System project is a fun one to do for science as well.
Turn Off Your Teacher Brain For Awhile
Don't let this confuse you. I still think you need to take time to relax and turn off your teacher brain to enjoy other moments during the break, but I know that as the day to return comes you will have trouble doing that, so I wanted to give you some resource ideas that will help get you back in the teaching mindset again without too much stress. From there, you can move on to more heavy duty material and instruction.
Remember, the kids have also taken time to shut out school for a couple of weeks and they will need to be eased back into study mode.
How Self Confidence Impacts Our Self Worth
Do you sometimes feel like you are surrounded by people who are better than you? Are you sometimes afraid to participate because you don't think you will be good enough?
It may surprise you to find out that this is a common feeling and most people experience it at one time or another. Many people will try to fake it and attempt to hide it from others, but I suspect if you did an anonymous survey, you would probably have a high percentage of people saying it is true.
Believe in yourself
Sometimes when you are surrounded by others who excel, it is hard to put yourself out there. You feel like you don't measure up and you might get criticized or ridiculed by others. I get it. I have a high achieving, talented family and I often feel like I am the "weakest link". The funny thing is, others feel that way when they are around me because they look at me as being the high achiever and talented one.
What I have learned along the way, is you sometimes need to put yourself out there and try, even when it is hard. Asking for help is difficult for us as adults, but we are always encouraging our students to do so. I guess we should take our own advice and do the same.
A Personal Example
In school, I found writing difficult, particularly poetry. This feeling carried over to my teaching, and I found it difficult at first to embrace teaching poetry. I could do the basics and I could help my students get started, but I found it challenging because sometimes I didn't feel that I could do it well myself. I needed to remind myself that I could do it and focus on this.
When I was in school, we would have to do many different types of writing, including poetry, and sometimes I was successful, but often I felt that I wasn't doing a great job. I got varying reactions from my teachers which made me start to doubt myself. It wasn't until I was in Grade 11 that I felt I could even write well.
That year was a changing point for me because I had a teacher who believed in me and encouraged me to keep writing. My short stories improved and my confidence started to build. Poetry was still a challenge, but I felt that I was able to at least meet the criteria.
I realized that writing is subjective and what some people like, others don't. It wasn't always a case of my writing being "bad", it was a case of my not being able to convey my feelings in a way that connected with some individuals. Once I learned that, I attempted to write more and use more variety and description. I started to get more positive feedback and this helped me to get through the assignments. I continued to keep trying and I started to feel like I could write well.
How it made a difference
Fast forward to my classroom and my students throughout the years of my teaching career. I was able to see this struggle with my kids in different subject areas and I was able to be the teacher that encouraged them. Sometimes it took a while, but in most cases, I was able to see growth and even a love of reading and writing develop in them.
Math was a bigger challenge, but that even began to take on a different effort as kids started to see themselves as capable. Confidence began to flourish and successes became more evident.
I used the following posters as our classroom themes. I believe these sayings and I tried to help my students to take them to heart and believe them too.
How teachers make a difference
As teachers, we have a huge influence on our students, whether we want to admit it or not. It is important to help them to become strong, confident, and valued people that are able to go out into the world and be successful. We don't know what they will choose to do in their lives, but we can give them the tools to strive for their goals.
If we encourage them to continue to keep trying when things get tough, they will learn perseverance and determination. If we acknowledge their progress, they will start to gain confidence and realize that they are capable of more.
If we treat them as valuable, we will help them to see their own self worth. In this time of mental health struggles with young people, this is very important. We need to be our students' cheerleaders and guides.
Teachers need encouragers too
We also need to be encouragers to our friends and colleagues who may be struggling to feel like they are worthy and valued. Especially now with the struggles of teaching during a pandemic. Our confidence has been shaken and we are sometimes beginning to doubt ourselves.
If you are feeling uncertain or wondering if you are doing a good job, I want to assure you that you are not alone. You should be proud of yourself for hanging in there during difficult circumstances. If you are feeling like you need help, don't be afraid to ask for it. There are many people out there who would be happy to help and provide support and encouragement.
I can tell you from experience, that you can get through tough times with support. Who knows, down the road you may be the one providing support to others as they struggle through tough times. It happened to me, so I know if can happen to others.
You've got this. You are valued, appreciated, and worthy. Believe in yourself.
Here are some posters I made that may help remind you and your students that you are valuable and worthy. Click on the image to check them out.
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How The Way We Feel Affects How We Look At The World
Happy New Year! It is hard to believe another year has passed. Who would have thought we would still be in the midst of a pandemic almost two years later. This year, it is important to be able to move on and look forward even though we are still dealing with restrictions and concerns over the virus that continues to impact our lives.
We often focus on all the things that are going wrong and these things can make it difficult to see things that are going right in the world. I would like to challenge both you and me to try to find the good out there and make that a focus for 2022.
Imagine how we could change the world if we were able to find the good in people instead of criticizing them. Think of all the positive energy we could add to a situation if we started to focus on what is right in the world.
A teacher friend of mine sent out an email the other day that was a great reminder of this. She uses colours for moods and puts them in her planner each day to indicate what kind of day it was. She noticed that when she looked back at the year, she had many days that had positive moments that she might have forgotten about if she had not made a note of them.
I have also seen different posts about gratitude jars. If we put one thought of gratitude on paper each day, or even each week, and put it in the jar, at the end of the year, we will be amazed at how much we have to be grateful for. Since it is the new year, this might be a good time to try that.
In the fall, I wrote about gratitude and created a gratitude journal for the four seasons. You can find out more about it here. This is a great place to record thoughts and reminders of things to be grateful for. Kids would benefit from using this type of journal. It is important to learn how to appreciate things and focus on what we have instead of always thinking about what we want.
I have created a personal feelings template that can be made into a personal feelings journal for the year. It is available on my followers free resources page for subscribers. I have added it to my Teachers Pay Teachers store for those who wish to purchase a copy.
Our attitude affects how we feel. If we are hopeful and positive, we will make it through challenging time. I hope that you will have a year full of good memories. Hang in there. We've got this!
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Mental Health First and Academics Second
I remember talking to a friend of mine one day about how things had changed and she reminded me that there were some positive things that came out of last year that hopefully would be continued this year. For instance, kids were washing their hands more often, staying home when they weren't well, taking more care with belongings, cleaning up better, and focusing more on their own work instead of socializing so much.
Of course, there were also many things that were missing that were important for social emotional learning. Being able to return to in person learning and carefully starting to do group activities really made a difference for some kids. I realize that not all schools went totally back to in person teaching, but hopefully they will soon. We learned how important personal connections are as we were prevented from being together for so long.
This was a wake up call for many as the number of children suffering from mental health issues increased significantly in the last year and a half. It goes to show how important it is to ensure that we focus on the social emotional well-being of our students. Academics are important, but not at the expense of a child's mental health.
Teaching SEL Helps Develop Good Mental Health
We, as teachers, nurture the kids and help them to develop positive self esteem and self confidence. It is important that we help them to see that they are special and valuable. Often, when kids act out, they are really crying for attention or help with issues that they may not be able to voice or even recognize. We need to look past the behavior and try to see what may be causing it. This is not an easy task and we may not get it right, but if we are able to let the child see that we care, hopefully it will make a difference.
Getting back to the basics
I heard from many teachers that this year has been a big challenge because of the wide range of levels they need to teach in their classes. Since the start of the pandemic this gap has grown. Some children flourished with online learning and others floundered or didn't even show up. Assignments were left incomplete, comprehension was sporadic, and trying to teach a skill or concept to everyone at the same time virtually was often very difficult and unsuccessful.
Now that many children are back in the classroom, the teacher needs to reassess what they know and where the gaps are so that they can continue on. This may lead to many stressful moments for both the kids and the teachers, especially during assessment times and testing times for those schools that are required to do standardized testing.
I know it may seem unmanageable at times, but it is important that the focus be on what is good for the kids. If it means stepping back and revisiting material that was previously covered in order to provide the base for future learning, do it. If it means that you have to teach in small groups to reinforce and reintroduce concepts, do it. If it means that you won't get to some of the material this year, then so be it.
Pushing through the curriculum just to complete it won't benefit anyone. You will feel like you didn't do your best teaching, and the kids will not get the understanding and knowledge needed to be successful in future lessons. Everyone will feel frustrated and stressed.
You've got this
You may be reading this and saying to yourself, "But you don't understand. It isn't up to me. I am responsible for teaching this curriculum so that my students can do well on the tests." I get it, but I also get that the kids won't do as well on the tests if they don't have a proper understanding of the material. As I said earlier, we need to protect their mental health. Even if it means the academics have to be limited for a short time.
When you give extra support and teaching in the areas that are weak, the kids will develop the skills and confidence to move on to more difficult material and they will ultimately fair better with future assessments and the curriculum requirements.
Remember that every group has had some disruption and that there are many children that are struggling with the academics across the country, and maybe even across the world, so you are not alone with this predicament.
You've got this. Your students will start to catch up as you support them where they are. Remember to encourage them along the way and help them to see that they will be successful and they will be able to reach for their goals and succeed along the way.
Next week I will give some specific ideas for getting back to the basics for primary children.
Hang in there. The holiday break will be here soon and you will be able to recharge and regroup. It may not always feel like it, but you do make a difference for your kids. You are a star. Keep on shining even if the light doesn't seem very bright at times.
About Me Charlene Sequeira
I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 9, and a retired primary and music teacher. I love working with kids and continue to volunteer at school and teach ukulele.