Last weekend a dear friend Dr. Funke Chenube, asked me to teach a class on her WhatsApp group.
I am glad I did not postpone because it was short notice or come up with excuses. I am working on Becoming More (thank you Mrs Ogunde). So I just got on with it and was able to deliver the session on schedule.
The responses after the class showed that it really was important to deliver the class.
So I share it with you also, just in case it will meet a need for you too.
“Preparing your team to handle children emotionally in the Post- Covid Environment.”
We have been waiting for months – 6 months for our schools to reopen.
Now the time has come and I am sure we are all excited.
For some of us it is truly because we have missed the children and are looking forward to seeing them again.
But for some it is the financial hardship that we hope will be actively resolved that brings on an excitement.
But seriously, I am here to tell you that this new norm requires a heart of gold for our country and children.
We can no longer continue business as normal… too much has changed.
Consider this, what children have gone through this year, none of us suffered this much change when we were growing up. Or did we?
How have you been coping?
Was the 2020 experience March to September anything you could have dreamt it would be this time last year?
We must sort out ourselves first then help the children.
The loss of life is real, the loss of jobs is real, the inability to eat in some families is real.
These children are coming back to school.
They need our help, it cannot be business as usual.
There is so much to do.
It is important to pay good attention to the emotional development of our children, it’s not just academics and as we have said above, a lot is going on so we must talk to our teachers as we prepare for the start of this special new session.
All hands on deck.
The damage we have seen is nothing compared with what could happen if we do not pay attention to the mental and emotional health of everyone in our school communities.
Help your teachers and yourselves for that matter by considering the following points:
1. Be Prepared: We need prepared teachers.
Be emotionally stable, control your emotions, be positive.
Train your mind to manage this new normal.
You need to feed your mind with affirmations and revisit why you are a teacher, and school owner.
Please key into your whys, your vision and mission.
Ensure that it is more than the money angle, our parents, community and nation is truly depending on us at this time to deliver. I repeat we must understand that we are preparing these children for life. The pandemic is a great way I think to teach children about how to get up and keep going when bad things happen.
2. Encourage your teachers to build great relationships with the children… they need to trust you.
They need someone to open up to.
Experiences that these children went through would be varying between great positives to bad negatives.
Someone may have died that they know, this is real folks, a friend of mine died in the last 24hours, she had children they will be returning to school too!
Some may have had a great time with their parents at home.
Some may have had a hard time with Uncles and Aunties who couldn’t care less.
Some may have been molested in several different ways. Some may be under nourished!
There are so many other things to consider as well.
3. Spend some good time with each child, let them talk.
Talk to you about whatever they may want to talk about.
Be wise please, if things come out and in some cases they will. Use wisdom, this is sometimes needed with the hungry child, the abused child,
the child who learnt little or nothing in the last 6 months.
Know the child, find out what has changed and plan forward for what will help the child succeed and overcome.
4. Source out where each child is at.
You cannot just start classes.
It is not business as usual.
All that business of just rolling off the school diary week after week will not work. I hope you get my drift.
I need to emphasize this now. As I know that you all want the children to pass your almighty exams…
If they do not understand what they have been taught, the next thing would be cheating!
We need to think ahead so that we can avoid this from happening.
Better they understand a few concepts than they have completed the school diary with no understanding!
If you can figure out now where each child is at what gaps you need to fill in now, before you continue with your almighty curriculum and Diary it will be better.
God will help us all.
For me personally this is why Montessori is so perfect.
It is an individual Educational plan, no rushing!
5. Help your teachers to work together as a team.
If you have a big establishment get external pastoral, counselling , also you may need some sessions with NGO’s who actually specialize in the emotional health of children to come in and encourage both children and teachers.
We may not know what to do but we are not alone.
Within the limits of confidentiality the responsibility of each school and teacher is to protect the child but also help the child.
Teach your staff that they can still get help from their colleagues, don’t be quiet if you need help get help.
This is important for us as School Owners as well, don’t try and do things yourself when you are not sure of what to do.
Get help, this is a new norm we will need help we cannot do this on our own.
6. Watch out for behavioural changes: A change of mood that lasts more than a couple of days, the inability to concentrate under their previous attainments, a change in weight increase or decrease (as food can be a hook for struggles), tiredness, anger, secretive behaviour avoiding others during mealtimes or PE lessons, signs of self – harming behaviour.
Let’s be vigilant.
7. Choose what is important, emotional well-being should come first before too much book work.
Please review this your 12 to 16 subject syndrome!
Overload in this new norm maybe the last straw for our children.
Please let us be wise.
I think learning may have to wait.
Work on engaging the hearts then learning can continue.
In conclusion here a few
steps to take: activities to do with the children: tools to use.
1. Acknowledge Covid-19 talk about it and the changes it has brought about in the society and your school. Do it in an age appropriate way. Check out the WHO website for ideas.
2. Hold talks in groups and individually, it is OK to leave the Time table schedule for a while, let’s build great emotional and mental health strengths for our children to start with. Ask them open questions not closed questions that produce Yes/No answers. These will enable them to express themselves and maybe pour out their hearts. Once that part is covered and dealt with, academics wouldn’t be an issue.
3. Be positive: Yes Covid-19 has happened but it is not all doom and gloom. We need to develop grit and give the children hope, because the truth is they are worried. Point them to the positives of what the virus has brought about. The improvement in the climate change issue for example is a big plus, it is reported that there is less pollution. You can use this as an opportunity to teach them about recycling, and other concepts so they know how to care for the environment. Ask them what positive things they can find from what has happened. They may even suprise you with some of the things they come up with.
4. Build teams and connections, build community. We need this, a lot of children will come back to school disconnected with the school, class, friends, class teacher. So teamwork, joint projects and togetherness needs to be our new norm even as you observe social distancing in the classroom. Do not lose the humanity in our work because of the pandemic.
5. Get the children to create art works with any media to express the feelings they are experiencing, it could be a class or school project.
6. Help them learn how to deal with their worries e.g. Breathing exercises, taking a pulse, counting up to ten if they need to, teach them to focus on the now as worrying about the future will not produce anything worthwhile. Help them to believe in themselves and look towards how they can make a difference. Our children need to be inspired and motivated to work towards reaching their greatest potential.
We can do this.