Actions to Consider Once the School Year Begins
As we all return in the fall, teachers, staff and students need to create opportunities to regularly practice and reflect on their social and emotional learning competencies and well-being. Having careful conversations with staff and students to discuss the past, present, current, and future impacts of COVID 19 on themselves and the world around them is important and will help build resiliency in all. Conversations and class discussions should take part in a safe space where participants demonstrate respect to each other and are sensitive to students' maturity and grade level. While deliberate efforts should be made to foster a trauma-sensitive environment, we must be mindful that these conversations may trigger emotional responses and can also lead to difficult but necessary discussions around equity, inequality, and race.
Topics teachers and staff may consider but not limited to are:
- Skills, supportive and resilient behaviors
- Bias, prejudice, and stigma
- Preparedness, hope, and resilience
- Grief, loss, and trauma
- Fear, anxiety, anger
- Hope, future goals and aspirations
Social workers, counselors, and psychologists should be prepared to provide student mental health and counseling services with telehealth options, where in-person services are not an option. Staff should be prepared to create plans with students struggling with the transition back to school, where their feeling/behaviors impede their ability to function throughout the school day. The sample questions below can be used as a starting point when planning to engage students, families, and teachers/staff regarding the transition back to school.
The sample questions below can be used as a starting point when planning to engage students, families, and teachers/staff regarding the transition back to school.
- What has your experience been like since school has been closed? What is on your mind as you think about the next school year? What are your biggest hopes or worries?
- What has our school done well during the past months, and what could we have done better?
- How might you like to contribute as we prepare to transition to a new school year?
- What will help you learn this upcoming year?
- What can we do to make school feel even more like a community that cares for you?
Topics for Teachers and Staff to Consider and be Mindful of When Planning Activities
- Students’ transition back to school
- May be behind on schoolwork
- Secondary traumas/loss-grief
- Increase in abusive tendencies
- Change in routine
- Unemployment situation/job loss
- News, constant bad news
- Previous mental health issues worsening
- Frustration with use/knowledge of remote technology
- Family job loss
- Middle and High School Orientations and Class Meetings
- Video and/or virtual tour to know what to expect
Each school has a re-opening plan that describes how the school will integrate SEL and academic supports to create and maintain a caring, safe, and supportive environment for all students and adults.