We’ve all heard the expression “we’re in the same boat”–however, I heartily agree with those who are brave enough to argue no–we are all in different boats in the same storm. I’d extend that metaphor for the gradual return to in-person instruction.
During each school day, students and teachers are in the same boat. It is up to teachers to build the best boat for all their student passengers, while remaining aware that every individual brings different baggage when they come aboard.
The 2021-22 school year started with children who come with a whole gamut of effects from a variety of stressors, including the pandemic, social unrest, and polarization. To provide support, school leaders are prioritizing social-emotional learning (SEL) and trauma-informed education–with a particular focus on student well-being, as evidenced by myriad articles, webinars, and resources centered around mindfulness and stress management.
These efforts certainly have value, but we must also consider the baggage each child is carrying, and not only help them put it down for the school day, but also help students build resilience so they can take it up more quickly when they have to.
SEL isn’t just stress management–it includes the foundational skills of self-confidence and tenacity, which can easily be incorporated into every building and classroom, especially in the first weeks of school when culture and processes are introduced and practiced. Teaching academics is a given, but giving students opportunities to be independent can combat stress and anxiety better than yoga and meditation.
Here are some simple (yet effective) ways educators can help students build resilience:
1. Avoid generalizations. Just as every child is in a different place academically, they each have had a unique emotional journey, and not every child has had the same level of trauma or loss. Some children have thrived during the last year, whose families have managed to avoid the brutal consequences of Covid and other tragedies. Other children have lost family and homes and desperately need school to be an escape.