As this school year begins with unknowns and different learning settings, some conversations with your children can better prepare them to be resilient in these situations. Consider the responses you might use as children share some worries or concerns. What strategies can you model to build resilience?
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Announcer : 00:01 Hello and welcome to the Parent Wellbeing and Student Learning During School Closures Edition of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. With the extended closing of schools, we as parents have entered into a new territory regarding what we have known as “school learning.” With this and future podcasts, I’ll look to share my experiences as a teacher, educator, parent, grandparent, and continuous learner.
Steve [Intro]: 00:34 Conversations with learners as the new school year begins. Some conversations with our students before the school year begins has always been important. This year with so many unknowns, it has increased in importance. It’s important in order to assist your youngsters in building resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from negative experiences or difficult challenges. Resilience allows us to face a difficulty or a challenge and to get back to things usually a little stronger and sometimes maybe even a little wiser. It’s likely some anxiety or worry is present for our students with all these unknowns and differences that this year holds.
Steve: 01:33 Some students who are starting the new year virtually are likely working with teachers and classmates that they may not have met before. This is very different from last spring when they moved online with teachers and classmates that they had been working with all year long. Some students will be returning back to the school building, but going back will likely be quite different from their past experiences. Many will face classrooms that seem rather stark with desk and rows facing the front of the room. They’ll find one-way paths to walk with spaced lines and be wearing masks and constantly being asked to stop at a hand sanitizing station. This will all seem strange. Some students will be working in various forms of a hybrid model, being in school on Sundays and learning at home on others. These situations will require students, witching roles as learners. That means identifying what are the learning behaviors and how different are they when I’m learning at school versus when I’m learning at home.
Steve: 02:45 I reviewed some websites that had suggestions for parents for the start of the school year and I’ve pulled those thoughts together with some of my own to share with you here. You’ll find the links to some websites that I looked at in the lead into this podcast. Certainly a place to start is some conversations with your children about what they’re thinking and what they’re feeling as the school year starts. As they share feelings, it’s important for us to be empathetic, to let the kids know that their feelings are okay and appropriate. A statment we frequently make at times is wanting to tell them no need to have the feeling that you’re having. The child says I’m scared and we want to tell them that there’s nothing to be afraid of. Those kinds of statements come somewhat from our own uneasiness and our desire to help the child by trying to take away the
Steve: 03:55 Instead, we need to be empathetic, accepting the feeling and letting the child have some time and maybe asking some more questions. We want to understand the feeling that our youngster is facing. A child might say to you, “it’s going to be awful wearing a mask all day long.” With empathy as a parent, I might respond, “yeah, that won’t be comfortable.” With a pause, your child may add, “it will be miserable!” Responding with empathy, it might sound like this. “Most students and even the teachers will feel the same way.” Again, with a pause, your child might respond, “yeah, I guess so.” And you might follow with something like this. “I’ll be anxious to find out what your first day of school is like.” For younger children, you may need to assist them with finding words that they can use to identify their feelings.
Steve: 05:08 A young child might shout out, “I’m not going to wear a mask!” And the parent might respond, “you’re worried how that would feel.” With the pause, the child might respond, “it’s scary.” And as the parent being empathetic, “it will feel strange.” The child might continue. “I can’t do it.” And now the parent might respond, “it likely will be uncomfortable. What if we both wear one for a while around the house today and see if we can cope with it?” Look to make these conversations ongoing so that your children can feel continually comfortable in sharing their feelings with you. A couple reminders: listen carefully, avoid a quick suggestion or trying to fix the situation. Resilience is built when we learn how to talk ourselves through those difficult situations that help us understand our own emotions. As you model these conversations with your children, you’re creating opportunities for them to learn how to have those conversations with themselves. Consider a dress rehearsal to help students plan and prepare for new situations.
Steve: 06:41 Like the example of wearing the mask for some shorter times that increase in length over a couple of days. What does it look like to role play the social distancing or hand sanitizing strategies that will be in place at their school? Interesting, my stepdaughter is studying for a medical school entrance exam, and she’s doing her practice task, wearing a mask, which she might need to be doing the day of the exam. Visualizing experiences and seeing ourselves deal with them is a way of building resilience. It’s one of the reasons that we visit colleges with high school students. Seeing oneself in that position is a way of building confidence to tackle the situation. Here’s an example you might use with your child. It’s likely your teacher’s going to want to know what you thought about learning at home last year. What do you think you’ll want to say?
Steve: 07:50 Creating a schedule with your youngster can add some predictability. This may be especially important for students who are in that hybrid model, being some days at school and others at home. What parts of the schedule are fixed and required like being in school or attending synchronous times when they’re at home? Imagine those being posted in a easy to access way for your children. Then consider where students can be flexible in making choices about parts of their schedule. That’s a great way to help students learn time management skills. I recorded an earlier podcast just on that time management piece and you’ll find the link again in the lead-in in this podcast. Consider creating opportunities for your child to experiment with time management. Coming up with a plan, working through trial and error and debriefing the results of the plan and then trying another one. You might also consider some conversations with your learners around goal setting, setting goals, and developing plans for reaching those goals is a great life skill for students to develop. These goals and plans can give you a check-in spot over a few days to keep coming back to the conversation.
Steve: 09:30 For example, a young child might make a goal of making one new friend in their new class. Their plan might include learning the names of students they don’t know. It might include asking one student each day about what they like to do at home. It might mean inviting someone that they don’t know to join a game on the playground. Again, these are great opportunities for a checkback conversation when your child returns from school. Similarly, a student might have a goal of staying on track to read the novel by the teacher’s preset deadline. Their plan might be to read at least one half hour on days when they’re at school to read at least an hour on days that they’re at home not at school and maybe to read an hour on each weekend. Again, the opportunity to come back to the conversation. Returning to the conversation for debriefing, how’s it going, more than looking at requiring the behavior will help students become increasingly empowered. Here’s some questions that anyone can ask themselves to help build their own resilience. You can use some of these questions as a model with your learners. What can I do to get back on track? I can’t control everything. So what is in my control? Can I change something I’m not doing to make things better?
Steve: 11:24 What can I learn from this? Who can help me? How can I move forward? These conversation times are important for you to listen and to model. Create the opportunity for these conversations. Thanks for listening.
Steve [Outro]: 11:54 Thanks again for listening, you can subscribe to Steve Barkley, ponders out loud on iTunes and Podbean and please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.