As the world reels from the novel coronavirus, also called COVID-19, educators, parents, and students are scrambling to adjust to changing circumstances. There are many ways that we can support our students through this transition.
First, listening to the concerns of our students and their parents is essential. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the information we want to share, but listening helps our students feel supported and also helps us to fully understand their needs so that we can better meet those needs. This includes being open to discussion and being willing to set aside our own agenda when we realize that students need to talk about their concerns. Students may find it difficult to get the emotional support that they need because their parents are also struggling, so helping students to feel emotionally safe by listening to them can be very helpful.
Clear, Consistent Communication
Once we’ve taken time to listen to our students and their parents, we should ensure that we communicate clearly and consistently with them throughout the pandemic. When talking with students, we should remain calm and reassuring and keep our explanations age-appropriate. This article from the CDC provides facts about COVID-19 to share with students and principles for communicating that information. In addition to sharing facts about COVID-19 with students, it is important to help students learn safety procedures such as solid handwashing skills. The CDC provides lesson plans for teaching handwashing skills, including lesson plans specific to different ages from preschool through high school. Talk with them about changes and about what they can expect moving forward.
Clear and consistent communication with parents is essential as well. Parents are juggling a lot of stressors, so knowing what to expect in terms of the education of their children can help reduce their stress, which is beneficial for your students. Clear communication will also help them support their children academically is they need to be out of school for a period of time. Make sure that you are honest when you don’t know something and continue to communicate regularly and update parents as things change.
Encourage Social Solidarity
Encourage physical distancing, but social solidarity. Help students stay connected with you and with their classmates if they are unable to be in school. If your students have internet access, video conferencing with your class can give them an opportunity to see and talk with you and their classmates. Group work in online spaces can contribute to maintaining social connections as well. Writing letters to your students and encouraging your students to write letters to each other can be another good way to encourage social solidarity.
Encouraging students to look beyond themselves and support people in the community can be helpful for them emotionally and for the people they help. You could encourage students to video conference with older people who are not able to have visitors or leave their homes. Sending encouraging letters to relatives or friends could be another way for students to serve. You can also pray together for those affected by COVID-19 and encourage students to pray individually for those who are sick or feeling worried by the situation.
As tempting as it can be to focus solely on the educational aspects of the disruptions caused by COVID-19, we know that teaching content is only part of our job as teachers. We are also role models of God’s character for our students. We can demonstrate God’s character of love by providing support for our students through listening to their concerns, communicating with them clearly and consistently, and encouraging them to reach out in service to others.