As we, once again adapt to a new life, we as teachers have a dual responsibility –– to manage our own anxiety as well as support students as they navigate their lives from behind the screens into the classrooms.
Previously, a new school year would mean an equal measure of excitement as well as nervousness. Change has never been the simplest. But it was also easy to imagine that a deep breath and warm smile from the teacher at the gate, at the classroom could solve a lot…Will it work this time too? Especially with so many experiencing such mixed emotions about the new changes including disappointment, anger, worry, and helplessness.
You may not know what to expect, whether you will be wanted or needed; whether your ideas will be met with resistance or indifference. If you are worried, I just want you to know it’s okay. There are no correct answers, just different people coming together to deal with the same situation.
Trust yourself and them.
Once we view our students as FLUID beings who are influenced and crafted by their surroundings, it gets easier for a teacher to create an environment that will shape a child positively. Remind them that they have survived this far, and with help and together you will survive the challenges that are yet to come.
Build a safe space
Create a safe environment with trust, empathy, understanding and acceptance. Validate, support and listen to them. No matter how extreme the emotion, how casual the engagement, show them that you are there. Your classroom is your safe space, their safe space. Build on it once again.
Blanket Assurances don’t work.
Assure your students but don’t invalidate their worries through “it will all be ok”. Schools may close again, they may fall sick or their friends might. Approach them honestly, acknowledging risks and teaching them problem solving.
Model expected behavior to empower them
Uncertainty is certain. Stay calm as you navigate anxiety. Share your experiences and coping strategies. Use every opportunity as an educator to empower them with tools to identify the problems. “How can we avoid this? What else could we do. Allow them to suggest plausible solutions and if practical, try them out.
Slow yet steady progress.
Kids will avoid any uncomfortable experience. Establish a gradual plan for any challenging activity or behavior. Push too hard and you will break their confidence. Also, avoidance will not bring change. Challenge them, enough to stay on the path yet to step out of their comfort zone. Help them be comfortable with discomfort.
Recognise your limits
Teaching is no fairytale – one where a teacher is expected to draw a wand out and magically aspire students to do better every single day. Being a teacher is hard. It is emotionally taxing and you may burn out. So, recognise when you are struggling and get help. Build a network of people you can reach out for advice, support and life-saving breaks.
To create impact, there are truly no shortcuts.
You have to care enough.
You have to want to create an impact. Intention' count, but so do your words and your actions. You have to reach out, look around and keep a watch even when you feel you can’t.
You will definitely make mistakes. And when you do, own up and promise to do better…
But have no doubt.
You are profoundly Influential.
And nothing works truer than an honest deep commitment to a child.
They see it, they feel it, they regard it.