We’ve made it back to school in some way or another. Some schools are completely remote. Some are completely in-person. Others are mixing it up with a hybrid of both. No matter what method your district has chosen, there have likely already been many challenges. It seems like every day administrators are trying to adapt to student needs and concerns in ways they haven’t had to in the past.
Many students feel unmotivated and emotionally drained with everything going on around them. Administrators have to provide leadership to help students stay as positive as possible during this difficult time.
While there is no clear-cut, one-size-fits-all solution, there are things administrators can do to help lessen the stress of dealing with this crazy period of our students’ lives.
Let’s look at ways to deal with some issues administrators are already facing when it comes to their students’ education in this very unique school year:
This is not the first time educators have seen students who are suffering from anxiety. However, the COVID crisis causes more students than ever to feel anxious and makes it exceptionally difficult to offer services to these students.
Some students may fear going to school. Others might feel overwhelmed by being stuck at home in front of a screen all day. While we cannot change these circumstances for students—they still have to attend school somehow—we can provide services for these students. Making small changes can help these students feel better about school and themselves.
Counselors can host group meetings in person (outside or with social distancing) or online so that students can have a support group with whom they can check in on a regular basis. Counselors can also set up peer-to-peer support where two students can have a daily check in with one another.
In-person students should be able to step away from the classroom if needed. They should have a technique they can use with teachers to signal that they need to leave the classroom to breathe for a moment. Administrators can provide a safe space for these students to go to meditate and calm themselves before returning to the classroom. By providing these outlets to lower their anxiety, students will feel better about coming to school or logging in for classes.
Masks have become an issue for some students. They don’t want to wear them, or they feel restricted by them. They also miss seeing each other students’ faces. This can make students feel distracted and unmotivated.
Administrators can encourage teachers to take students outside as much as possible to provide some mask breaks. In older grades, teachers can also give assignments where students record themselves at home (when giving a speech, talking about a book, etc.) where they can speak freely without a mask. These recordings can be played for the class so classmates can see their faces when they are talking.
Administrators can ask students and parents to send in mask-free pictures of students to post in the hallways, cafeteria, and other common spaces. These posted pictures of unmasked students smiling throughout the building can lift students’ spirits. Teachers can do the same thing by asking students to provide a picture of themselves to post in their classrooms.
Staring at a screen all day long can be lonesome. Even though students may see other people virtually, it’s not the same as walking, talking, and laughing through the hallways. Connecting students in online chats can be a real challenge.
To break up the monotony, administrators can suggest that teachers take a minute out of each class to make a connection. Perhaps a student tells one (pre-approved) joke to start each class. Maybe there is a student of the week or day who gets to share a personal story. When students are at home, they can do a show and tell activity with an object in their house.
By sharing a little bit of themselves each day, students can build connections and look forward to touching base with classmates.
School just isn’t the same anymore. For remote students, they struggle to find fun in online activities. For those who are physically in class, sitting six feet apart with masks just doesn’t have the same feel for students compared to when they could lean over and whisper a funny aside to a friend.
But just because students are apart doesn’t mean they cannot have some fun! Administrators can lead the way by hosting a spirit week with themes and costumes. This can work for virtual or in-school learners. Administrators can play music in between classes. Some older students can be given permission to paint their parking spaces in the parking lot. Any sort of activity that makes school a more fun place to be will definitely be a boost to morale.
Administrators have the challenge of overseeing all of the safety measures for their students while still ensuring that students are motivated and encouraged to do their best. During this global pandemic, administrators have to be creative and flexible in order to provide ways to make students feel excited about learning, despite some very strange conditions. The more administrators can do to make the school (or remote school) more welcoming, connected, and energizing, the more likely students are to be driven to participate and succeed in their learning.