We are now in a period where academic worries will be top of mind for many students. Worries soared following the return of Term 2 deadlines. Students will now have received marks and question their capacity. It is not surprising that students will feel unsettled.
What should a teacher look out for, and how should they handle signs of distress?
First, notice how your students present in school:
Don’t dismiss these signs. They are red flags. This term has unearthed a variety of different worries in students. Some students, for example, may be feeling envious of other schools’ abilities to keep up over COVID. These feelings lead to self-doubt and depression. There may be conflict at home with parents managing financial insecurity or attempting to re-instill screen time limits. Notice the signs and respond to them using the pastoral and wellbeing structures in your school. Speak to the year coordinator or school counsellor. It will be important to work closely with parents to understand the home situation.
In one on one mentoring discussions with students, avoid the trap of providing excessive reassurance as reassurance feeds anxiety. Recognise anxious 'What if' thoughts and label them. Within conversations, support students using 'What can I do now' problem solving. Step 2 in this model explains how to support students by providing ideas in a healthy way. This problem-solving routine provides teachers with clear guidelines to navigate the boundary of support and reassurance.
The impact of Covid is not over. School holidays will provide a short reprieve from face to face pressure for all of us. The 'hits' and 'dips' of screen use will provide an easy go-to coping strategy to bury concerns. At the beginning of Term 3, self doubt will resurface and there will be a more realistic and sustained chance for students to reset their work ethic. We will need a combination of support and limit setting to help our students return to normal.
Term 3 will be a time for increased understanding and support. The most important wellbeing learnings will be to recognise how reassurance feeds worry and anxiety. In the wake of Covid, teachers from a range of schools explain that this understanding provides a refreshing way to support their own Wellbeing. A two-hour online Teacher Wellbeing course has been informed by these teachers and is available on our website.
Dr Danielle Einstein is the founder of Chilled and Considerate, which provides short and effective teacher, student and parent wellbeing programs to manage worry and self doubt. Visit www.covid19chilledandconsiderate.com to get in touch.