Creating a Next Normal in Education

For a long time, school leaders have felt the stress of needing to balance efforts to meet a student’s social and emotional needs while remaining focused on academic excellence.

High stakes testing and school and district report cards place pressure on administrators to focus on academic performance. Educators have felt overwhelmed by the increasing demands in the classroom, the rising needs of students as well as increased scrutiny and expectations for academic performance in their classrooms.

5 Tips for the Next Normal

As the dangers of COVID-19 forced us to close schools and make distance learning a reality, many of the things that once seemed critically important were no longer so critical. Now is the time to create a new reality in schools.
  1. Make Regulation a Priority. Teaching regulation must be a priority. Begin class with a grounding exercise or deep breathing. Since movement is likely to be restricted between classes, recess or lunch, structured movement breaks that include rhythm and repetition, like bouncing a ball or doing jumping jacks are essential.
  2. Use Trauma-Informed Practices. Apply trauma informed practices while supporting your students and families during prolonged social isolation and virtual learning.
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  3. Ask Yourself Critical Questions. When the “chips were down” and we had to conjure up new way of learning out of thin air in a few short days, what emerged as essential? What became no longer relevant? How do we create a paradigm shift in education where social and emotional well-being are not seen as an add-on to or distractions from learning but as the only true path to academic success for all?
  4. Put Their Social and Emotional Needs First. Some students will experience simple fear, stress, and anxiety over the return to school. Things that were once normal will feel odd and threatening. Other students will mourn the loss of the comfort and relief you feel from being at home and away from the academic and social pressures of school. Still others, will have experienced the loss of a loved one or felt the effect of structural inequality and racism which have profoundly impacted their family’s ability to cope with current challenges. More students than you know have experienced a high level of stress due to abuse, neglect, substance abuse or violence in their homes during this time.
  5. Yes, Even Your Child. You may be thinking “I’m not sure that my child needs this focus on social and emotional well being because this event is not really stressful for them and they are fine.” Even students who are looking forward to a return to school may experience stress, anxiety, or a sense of loss when the school experience that they once knew and the things that they loved best about school have completely changed. So yes, pay attention to you your child, too.

This article was originally posted in SaintA’s Compassionate Schools Newsletter. Sign up to receive the next issue directly in your inbox!


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