If I don’t have an exercise routine, I don’t do it. Children are just the same with work habits….
We all know there have been a lot of changes to our daily lifestyles, due to the COVID-19 situation, and our lives are different to varying degrees. In Perth, Australia, we have been lucky in comparison to the rest of the world! Our “lockdown” still permitted us to go to the beach and parks for exercise purposes and purchase essentials at the shops. Things have somewhat changed recently and we can have small get-togethers (up to ten people), more shops are opening (though not all are and it’s just a bit random, to be honest), schools are open and students must now attend and cafes and restaurants are open for up to 20 patrons.
So, these changes are certainly quite minimal compared to those who are quite literally stuck inside their own homes. Given this, I didn’t expect to really see much of an impact on the students I teach. Surprise, surprise…… I have seen a difference, or an impact. It’s not dramatic and huge but if you’re a teacher – you will likely be feeling it and noticing it.
The routine that we worked so hard to develop in Term One (where to line up, where to put things, how to sit quietly during lessons…. all those transitions!) seem to be have forgotten. I have had to re-teach these routines and transitions. This is in a short space of time too. Of course, it probably didn’t help that we had a two-week holiday in between all of this.
There has been a “dreamy-like” existence to most faces……. I’ve heard comments like, “I’m tired,” and, “Can we play this afternoon?” Oh, lordy! Yep. So, of course, we (as a teaching group) have collaborated and certainly been mindful to “ease” students into a new and more structured routine and allow for a little bit more “free” play and experiences that are less structured. We certainly, as a class, haven’t been able to get through the same volume of work that we did prior to the COVID-19 situation.
Student’s mental health and wellbeing is obviously above, and vital to, their academic progress though and we need to be mindful of this. My usual, fast-paced, slightly ADHD schedule, has had to be scaled back a little bit! I’ve found this just as hard as the kids have found coming back to school. I’ve had to step back, see what the student’s needs are and really adjust to cater to them.
With such a minimal impact, I have still noticed that, with the change in daily routine, students have been slightly more “needy” and emotional. I have had to balance this effect with having discussions on being resilient (as an adult and child) yet also create a slightly “homely” touch by having a reduced work-load and more incidental “chats” with the students. This has been really helpful so far.
Don’t get me wrong though. We are NOT slacking off! I am a strong believer in keeping the routine the same, even if it is adjusted. Kids actually thrive off routines and feel comforted and safe with them. Think about it. Their whole world has been shaken. One thing we can keep the same for them is their actual school life! I always say this to families who have brought a new sibling home. Keep your routine the same for your older child. Some parents go about lessening behaviour expectations and see epic tantrums as a result (for so many reasons, but it is important that your child knows what is expected). This is one thing that we CAN control – our daily routine (albeit slightly adjusted).
Children may be exposed to so many life changing experiences but as teachers we can actually assist by keeping a solid routine to their daily life.
My tips to assisting students to cope with massive changes:
- Discuss the actual changes (tornado, COVID-19, new sibling……whatever it is!) with honestly but do sensor some information with age-appropriateness.
- Introduce the concept of emotional resiliency (if you haven’t already) – I like to briefly discuss my own life challenges (censored) and talk about how I was resilient. This is true-life modelling. Use a teddy bear if you’re not comfortable talking about yourself.
- Invite students to choose an option to “bounce-back.” Remind them, if they are “down,” and if they are consistently not bouncing back then it is time to choose a new strategy that actually works.
- ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE – stick to a daily routine. In my class, we have a visual daily schedule and we go over it every day. This helps students feel safe and secure.
- Connect – allow some more time for chats and discussions. Sometimes we just need to listen.
- Laugh – find humour in situations and share this. I also like to do a daily dance at the end of the day with my class to encourage fun, movement and we tend to laugh at ourselves (myself particularly, because I always look like a lunatic following the JUMPJAM instructor!).
Take care everyone.