When I first posted about the pandemic in March of 2020, I never dreamed I would still be posting about the pandemic in February of 2022. The reality is, we are not through this yet and the impact of this pandemic on our families, students, society and ourselves, will be felt for generations.
As dramatic as that sounds, and as much as I acknowledge the impacts of this pandemic, I am also a pragmatic person. I try not to dwell on problems, but rather find solutions and move forward. So in this post, I am going to share 1 of the things in my teaching this year that has really worked in this new reality:
I know many of my colleagues and I have discussed the level of anxiety we are seeing out of our students right now. It appears in different ways, in different children. We see constant questions, the need for reassurance, a need to know what is happening and an inability to wait. We see children who have limited tolerance to even the smallest of problems. A broken pencil, a change in routine, or a task that demands sustained attention, can lead to tears. Social troubles between students abound as students work to learn the social skills they missed out on during the past few years of isolation.
As are we, students are living in a world where there is no certainty. Society has lost patience for the pandemic and hate, intolerance and selfishness are bubbling to the surface. Even the most skilled parents, educators and community supporters can not shield children from the ugliness that is surfacing in our society right now. The fallout of this pandemic is indeed great.
Our students have lost privileges, routines, security and in many ways the innocence of childhood. However, as I list these challenges, the optimistic realist in me knows they are not insurmountable.
What are we going to do?
We are going to do our best to provide security, routine, strategies and tools.
So brace yourself for the strategy I am going to share with you. It isn’t groundbreaking. It is actually something most of you are likely already doing, but this year highlighted the importance.
I am checking in with my students every morning.
I know…your mind is blown. 😂
One of things I’ve started this year is a daily check in on paper. I know many people do something like this in their classroom, and have done it for years, but in the past, I always felt that I had the time, space and ability to verbally check in with my students. This year, I needed something more concrete.
At the beginning of the school year I started a sticky note check in. I would put a sticky note on each desk and when students arrived they would write me a message. As the year progressed, it evolved into the small slip of paper seen below. When we returned in January, I added the school screening question at the top.
As I do attendance, students complete their check in and as they complete a daily Bell Work task, I walk around and collect each slip, responding to each student’s check in slip verbally.
“Tired” - I understand, I’m tired too.
“Hungry” - Would you like to take your lunch into the hallway, remove your mask and have a snack to start your day?
“Anxious, Sad, Worried, So So” - What’s up? How can I help?
“Happy, Silly, Excited,...” - I am so happy you feel that way! We are going to have a good day!
Through these check ins I have been able to answer questions, reassure students, meet basic needs, and find out about special events and celebrations at home. Students have shared about why they are tired, what is bothering them, and things that they identify as making them anxious or worried. I’ve learned that what appears to be “attitude” in the morning is sometimes a rough start to the day or a tough night.
Again, not groundbreaking, but this is one thing that is really working for us this school year.
What is one thing that is working for you?
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Please follow along on my journey. I am an Ontario elementary school teacher who loves to learn new things! I love to share, collaborate and learn from others, so please keep in touch!