Mental Health and the Wellbeing of Teachers

Entry 6

10+ Health And Wellbeing Quotes - QuotesTodays.com
October 17

Since Mental Health week was just last week, and frankly, anytime is a good time to discuss mental health, I thought I would continue with my theme of wellness, this time for teachers. As teachers, we tend to put ourselves last. When we have time, and even when we don’t, we mark assignments, write lesson plans and contact parents. We must keep in mind that we are no good to our students our families or friends when we are depleted and lacking focus. We need to remember to put ourselves first and take time to exercise, get out in nature or do whatever feeds your soul.

I had the opportunity to visit the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains this week. It was the perfect mix of adrenaline rush, including a mountain roller coaster and a zip line, followed by a refreshing pool and a warm sauna. We went on hikes, we sat by the fire and played games and we sat through a raging storm and we experienced the first snowfall of the year. It was the perfect mix of getting out in nature and relaxing.

Carpathian Mountains Video

During COVID-19 I’m not recommending travel, unless it can be done safely. We rented a private chalet and practiced social distancing, including eating outdoors and we wore our masks when around others. It was the shoulder season, so there weren’t too many people visiting the mountains. Even if you cannot safely travel right now, getting out in nature, or taking time to read a book for pleasure can help you gain some perspective, and focus on something you love to do.

If you are able to get out in nature or participate in activities you normally like to do, and yet you are not able to experience joy, it may be time to seek help. Many School Boards offer counselling sessions to their employees, which may have to be virtual due to COVID, but could be potentially helpful to have a trained professional to talk to.

Keep in touch with people when possible. It can be hard to stay connected when the very message from doctors is to stay apart. I have started reaching out more socially on Zoom with friends and family in Canada. Even if you only have fifteen minutes to connect, it can really brighten your day.

How to Cope with Loneliness During Social Distancing | Martha Stewart

As a teacher, I like to collaborate with other teachers and hear about their triumphs and challenges and see if we can help or learn from one another. Talking through issues or sharing tips can help you to know others are going through the same thing you are. Feeling connected is a struggle right now, but worth the effort to find ways to meet such as in the parking lot at school, on FaceTime, or Zoom if there are a few of you, or simply calling. Even just sending a text checking in on a friend can provide a much needed pick me up.

10 Honest Text Responses to 'How Are You?' | The Mighty
calm

In recent years there have been a wealth of wellness apps on the market. While I haven’t tried any myself, I know friends that swear by Calm. It was named by Apple as the 2017 iPhone app of the year. Calm provides people experiencing stress and anxiety with guided meditations, sleep stories, breathing programs, and relaxing music.

Happify - Apps op Google Play

“Need a happy fix? With its psychologist-approved mood-training program, the Happify app is your fast-track to a good mood. Try various engaging games, activity suggestions, gratitude prompts and more to train your brain as if it were a muscle, to overcome negative thoughts. The best part? It’s free!”

In this stressful and uncertain time, our well-being is so important. Make putting yourself first a priority. When that simply is not possible, try again the next day. Make and keep connections with others, even if it is just a text, or an email. Reach out to a professional if you feel like you need help or someone to talk to. There are many mental health programs and apps you can access for free or the premium versions for a monthly fee. If you need additional resources, you can access the Mental Health Commission of Canada at: https://mhfa.ca/en/general-resources

MHCC Logo

Mental Health and Wellbeing of Students During a Pandemic

Entry 5

Look After Your Mental Health During Coronavirus, Experts Predict Rise In  Cases Of Anxiety And Panic | Coronavirus Outbreak

October 14

This past year has been hard on most people in the world. It really is striking to think about that. There is likely not a person alive who has not been impacted in some way by COVID-19. There have been other events in history such as WWI, WWII, the Spanish Flu and The Black Death which have impacted a large part of the world. The negative impacts of the current pandemic may range from health problems and financial difficulties to disruption and isolation. The silent but potentially deadly consequence of COVID-19 is the damage to our mental health.

Living in limbo is not easy on anyone. I was living my life in Kyiv, Ukraine when the pandemic hit, and my family and I were given a choice to stay put, or to evacuate back to Canada. We chose to stay. The numbers in Ukraine initially were much lower than in Canada, and it seemed safer than flying and spending time in airports. In the end the decision was taken out of our hands and we had to fly back to Canada. The medical system in Ukraine was deemed to be substandard in comparison with Canada, and for our protection, we were asked to fly home. We booked ourselves into a cottage in the woods in Havelock-Belmont-Methuen, Ontario for two months. We figured we wouldn’t be there the whole two months, but we wanted to ensure we had a place to stay. Every week we would have a Zoom call with our Ambassador and wait anxiously for any news. No news ever came. We would hear rumours from other colleagues that next week we would hear something and then the next.

We finally had to book another month, this time in Toronto. We again thought we would leave before the end of the month, but that date came and went, all the while still having weekly Embassy calls in the hopes we would get some news. All toll we were in Canada for 4 months. For anyone who lives in Toronto or was keeping up with COVID-19 updates in Canada, it was one of the last places to open up businesses and restaurants. Our daily lives were not easy. My son was continuing with his remote schooling, but his timing was off and he had to switch to asynchronous learning, when he had been used to live Zoom sessions throughout the day. As a result, he did not get to see his friends. My husband had to keep working, but again, most of his meetings were with people in Ukraine, so trying to collaborate with others was difficult due to the time change. I was able to conduct my lessons online, but our internet was satellite based at the cottage in the woods and that proved a challenge to maintain a good connection.

We were safe, we had food and we were together. Overall we were quite lucky, but still I struggled with my mental health. I am a planner, and it was killing me not to know when or if I would ever go back to Kyiv. The way I kept myself sane was to remember that we were lucky, and that there were people much worse off than we were. My son also handled the situation so well, that he inspired me to try to live in the moment and focus on the positive things that were happening.

Global mental health in the time of COVID-19 - Harvard Health Blog -  Harvard Health Publishing

“The fear of the unknown is possibly the most fundamental fear of human beings. From an evolutionary perspective, humans have been able to survive because we’re able to plan. We’re socialized from childhood to believe that “there’s a predictable universe” and order in which things should happen” (Antshel).

How are our students handling life and schooling during the pandemic? Overall, mental health services are lacking in most regions of Canada. Needing access to services during COVID-19 is proving especially difficult, due to social distancing requirements. While Zoom sessions may be an option for some, others are finding themselves on a waiting list. Many students who are struggling are suffering in silence and not letting others know their pain.

“The Covid-19 pandemic may worsen existing mental health problems and lead to more cases among children and adolescents because of the unique combination of the public health crisis, social isolation, and economic recession” (Golberstein, Wen, Miller).

For students who are attending school online, they may miss out on mental health services that are provided at school. “A major concern the researchers point to: Since most mental health disorders begin in childhood, it is essential that any mental health issues be identified early and treated. Left untreated, they can lead to serious health and emotional problems. In the short term, video conferencing may be an effective way to deliver mental health services to children” (Golberstein, et.al).

Mental health and academic achievement are linked, research shows. Chronic stress changes the chemical and physical structure of the brain, impairing cognitive skills like attention, concentration, memory, and creativity. “You see deficits in your ability to regulate emotions in adaptive ways as a result of stress,” said Cara Wellman, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University. In her research, Wellman discovered that chronic stress causes the connections between brain cells to shrink in mice, leading to cognitive deficiencies in the prefrontal cortex. 

Not all students are dealing with pandemic in the same way. For some, their lives continue mostly as it was. For others, their lives have been turned upside down and they have had to isolate at a time when they need people the most. COVID-19 will have lasting repercussions for children, and it is important for them to get timely access to mental health services. Intervening early can help lessen the negative impacts on learning and help students find techniques to help them cope with school and life in an uncertain time.

Sources:

Golberstein E, Wen H, Miller BF. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and Mental Health for Children and Adolescents. JAMA Pediatr. 2020;174(9):819–820. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.1456

Terada, Youki, 2020. COVID-19’s Impact on Students’ Academic and Mental Well-Being. Edutopia. Retrieved from:http://www.edutopia.org/article/covid-19s-impact-students-academic-and-mental-well-being.

Stieg, Cory, 2020. The Psychological Toll of Uncertainty and Not Knowing What’s Coming Next. Make It. Retrieved from:https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/17/coronavirus-psychology-of-uncertainty-not-knowing-whats-next.html?__source=sharebar|email&par=sharebar

How Has Teaching and Learning Changed Due to COVID-19?

Entry 4-October 9th

Family Feedback

Reflections/Feedback – Information Literacy Spaces

Returning to the communication topic from my last post, I want to now examine family feedback, and how crucial it can be in general, but specifically during a pandemic. Parents always want to know how their children are doing academically, but now that being on campus can be a matter of life and death, parents have numerous questions about the health and safety of their children. My son’s school, Pechersk School International (PSI), has put a lot of time and effort into modifying their campus, and putting in regulations to safeguard the students and staff. In the summer, all families received a Back to School Guide and accompanying video to take parents through the important decisions that were made, and the expectations of staff, students, and families going forward. Attached to the Back To School Guide, is a Google Document, which allows parents to continually ask questions which are answered by the Director, the school doctor, a CDC consultant, or one of the principals. Not having any direct experience with other schools, to search for norms, I can say with great confidence that PSI is exemplifying gold-standard measures for safety, communication, and for focusing on emotional wellbeing. To help students adjust to their hybrid learning situation, an advisory program has been established in the secondary school to ensure social-emotional learning is emphasized during this time of uncertainty. This class allows students time for questions, for games and for reflection.

Even with all the steps PSI has taken, and all the information they have sent out, the questions continue. Speaking to some of my friend’s who are teachers, they are feeling overwhelmed with the amount of emails they are receiving from parents. How do we ensure we are offering a sufficient amount of feedback, without experiencing teacher burn-out?

Ways to Provide and Receive Feedback from Students and Families

Please take 'return to school' parent survey, closes June 12 -  Berne-Knox-Westerlo Central School District
Surveys

Surveys let you know if the information you are providing is having the desired effect. Surveys also let you quickly see a graph or a tangible number to confirm or contradict your assumptions about parental satisfaction. There are several survey apps which make sending and receiving results quick and easy.

Video assessment killed the clip art star | The Scientific Teacher
Videos

Sometimes parents can get bogged down in all the newsletters, classroom information, or district e-mails. Just like students, it helps to cater to all types of learners in your community. One way to make parents feel at ease, especially if they are not allowed on campus is to make a video showing the measures you or your school has in place to keep them safe.

Eastern Michigan University to host virtual town hall, 'Empowering  Communities in Responding to the Challenges with COVID-19' - EMU Today
Virtual Town Hall

At PSI we have weekly town hall meetings which are recorded to ensure all parents can stay informed regardless of their schedule. This is another great way to impart information, but also for parents to ask or text questions and receive answers live. This way you may receive an answer to a question you didn’t realize you had!

Document Clipart Google Doc - Google Docs Logo Png , Free Transparent  Clipart - ClipartKey

You can start a Google Document to allow parents to ask any questions and then the answers will remain to allow for any parents to easily retrieve information that has already been posted. This can save time and allow a place for ongoing communication.

Keeping parents in the loop and providing them with a consistent place to ask questions will ease tensions throughout the year. Having said that, you do need a time to switch off. Clearly state to parents your communication policy. If you do not answer emails during school hours or after 9:00 P.M. for example, make parents aware of this:

“Teachers who sense scrutiny from parents and administrators during this time when their struggles are observed have more difficulty coping. Teachers who perceive collegial support, who set limits on their time and who practice self-understanding are more successful in recovering efficacy and coping” (Guerin, 2020).

Source

Guerin, C. 2020. How to Prevent Teacher Burnout During the Coronavirus Pandemic. The Conversation. Retrieved from: https://theconversation.com/how-to-prevent-teacher-burnout-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic-139353.

How Has Teaching and Learning Changed Due to COVID-19?

Entry 3

Am I Making Myself Clear?

CASE : How to communicate more clearly while solving problems? - Start2BU

October 7th

Being able to communicate effectively is arguably our most important life skill. During COVID-19, this can be a real challenge. Whether you are teaching in person, in a hybrid setting, or online, effective communication is clearly necessary, but more difficult during this time. When discussing communication, we often see it examined in seven parts, as the seven Cs of Communication:

Effective communication in the workplace: 4 Effective communication -  OpenLearn - Open University - COM_1
Open.edu

I think it is important to re-look at these seven Cs through the lens of COVID-19, and evaluate whether we need to change or enhance our methods of communication.

Clarity: For those who are teaching in an asynchronous environment, or responding to emails, tone in the written word can be tricky. When trying to be funny or lighthearted, our messages can come off as odd or clunky and leave our students confused. When communicating, we need to be clear about our goals and try to avoid sarcasm, or cryptic messages. We need to be explicit, and state exactly what we want our students to do or know. Wearing a mask can also make it hard for some students who are used to reading lips or taking in facial cues like smiling, frowning or pausing. While some people smile with their eyes, it may be helpful to express what is going on under your mask, i.e., “I’m thinking right now.”

We need to be concise. When we introduce an assignment in person, students can get overwhelmed in the details. While it may seem important to include every detail at once, often students need time to sit with, or start the assignment before actually knowing what questions they may have. Breaking down the assignment into parts can help students get a handle on what you are asking them to do. Try to eliminate unnecessary information at the outset, and allow questions you receive to guide your instructions, once students have been provided with a hard or soft copy of the assignment.

Complete: While this may seem like the opposite of the advice just offered, having all relevant information in writing, makes the information available to check and recheck as a student works through their assignments. Have all the relevant information such as the due date, the expected length of the assignment, a rubric, and a clear, consistent place for students to be able to ask questions. Whether this is your email address, a Google Document a Zoom meeting, etc. Students need to be able to clarify instructions and have the ability to ask and have their questions answered. Communication is a two way street, and allowing a public place to ask questions can not only help that student, but allow others to benefit from their questions and your responses.

Correct: Double check your information before sending it out, as having the wrong dates on assignments, can cause a lot of confusion. Check your written assignments and messages for grammatical and spelling mistakes, and especially for the correct spelling of student names. Some students are used to teachers spelling, or pronouncing their names wrong. Make a real effort to get it right. My name is Leah, but people often pronounce my name as Leia (like Princess Leia). I usually just ignore it or roll with it, but it can go along way to building a positive atmosphere with your students if you make an effort to get the spelling and pronunciation right.

Courteous: During this uncertain time, having all students logging on to your class at the correct time, or wearing their masks properly when they arrive can seem like the only priority to worry about, but focusing on being courteous can go a long way in reducing stressful situations. Being friendly, and emphatic can allow your classes to run more smoothly and it allows you to model respectful communication even when under pressure.

Coherent: If you are new to online teaching or speaking through a mask, you may want to practice by video taping yourself to check for proper pacing, enunciation, and to see how many filler words you use. When becoming a teacher, we were constantly being taped to see what what we actually looked like or sounded like. My filler word was, and often still is, “okay.” Filler words are often unavoidable, but students may get caught up in these filler words and it may make focusing more difficult. My Grade 10 Social Studies teacher would clear his throat if we got an answer wrong. I can still hear him making the “er-h-r-m,” noise, even today!

Concrete: Providing students with a clear picture of what you are asking of them may need examples, like student work from a previous year, a photo, or a video to allow them to know what to expect. When proving an image, a story or example, this may make this abstract idea come to life.

Connected: Having reviewed the seven Cs and discussed the importance of effective communication, my focus for this year is to make it eight Cs and add “Connected ” to this list. Feeling connected is so important right now. Like many of you, I am feeling disconnected from friends, from family, from students and my way of life in general. Making students feel connected by checking in, offering remote collaborative experiences, and going beyond the course content to ensure everyone feels connected is what is needed right now.

“Humans are social creatures and have a deep biological and neurological need for interaction, so it follows that research has found that positive relationships in children’s lives play an important role in students’ ability to learn and cope” (Prothero, 2020).

“We know that kids learn best when they feel safe and secure; when they feel anxious and aroused and uncomfortable, learning stops,” said Laura Phillips, a neuropsychologist with the Child Mind Institute. “If we want to maximize the school year, we need to help kids start out feeling safe and connected to the people with whom they are interacting (Prothero, 2020).

There have always been differing views on the purpose of education, but in my view, feeling connected in a time where that is scarce, is my top priority. Everyone will remember 2020, but hopefully we can create opportunities for students to feel connected in an uncertain and unprecedented time.

Sources

Image Source: Open.edu

Prothero, 2020. How to Build Relationships With Students During COVID-19. Education week. Retrieved from: https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/09/03/how-to-build-relationships-with-students-during.html?intc=eml-contshr-shr-desk.

How Has Teaching and Learning Changed Due to COVID-19?

Entry 2

October 3, 2020

Learning Curve

Keeping that learning curve steep | Dealer Support

In my last post, I stated that our response to change is key. We cannot spend time lamenting about the way things were or spending time resisting change. We therefore, need to address the learning curve during this pandemic. Some of us have known that our lessons would be solely online and have planned for this; some of have prepared our lessons for hybrid learning and still others have planned to deliver in person learning all year. No matter what your situation is, the way we teach and learn is different. There is no way around this fact. Even if you are teaching in person, you and your students will likely be wearing masks, or you may be seeing your students through plexiglass shields. You may not have access to shared materials and collaboration between students may be limited.

Although teaching and learning is different, the main goal should be the same. “The goal of any type learning system, regardless of the delivery is to promote learning, therefore, before any learning materials are developed, educators must tacitly or explicitly know the principles of learning and how students learn. This is especially true for online learning, where instructors and learners are separated. The development of effective online learning materials should be based on proven and sound learning theories. The delivery medium is not the determining factor in the quality of learning per se; rather, course design determines the effectiveness of the learning” (Rovai, 2002).

“To select the most appropriate instructional strategies, the online developer must know the different approaches to learning. Strategies should be selected to motivate learners, facilitate deep processing, build the whole person, cater to individual differences, promote meaningful learning, encourage interaction, provide relevant feedback, facilitate contextual learning, and provide support during the learning process” (Anderson, 2011).

For those teaching online, there are a number of valuable insights I have gleaned through reading up on delivering lessons remotely. Here are some of my main takeaways:

  • Practice your lesson before you deliver it. Practice retrieving files, having relevant tabs open and ensure you know which documents you will need and close those tabs that you won’t need.
  • Clarity is king. Ensure you deliver clear expectations and provide plenty of opportunities for questions and confirmation of assignments.
  • Ask students for feedback. This information will be invaluable to you in finding out if your microphone occasionally cuts out, if you are speaking too quickly, or if students have trouble finding where to find homework assignments, for example.
  • Provide a camera-off period to allow those students who feel anxious or uncomfortable answering questions to take a break from being “on.”
  • Create opportunities for students to teach. Students will gain confidence in their presentation skills, and it allows for students to learn from one another.
  • Involve families where appropriate. If you are teaching school aged children, ensure you provide opportunities for families to understand the expectations of their child, which can alleviate stress on both sides. When parents feel valued and informed, they will be more willing to collaborate with you and help enhance learning for their child. In my son’s school we have weekly town hall meetings to offer information and to allow parents to ask questions of the principal.

Sources:

Anderson, T. (2011). The Theory and Practice of Online Learning 2nd edition. Edmonton, Alberta: Library and Archives Canada.

Seltzer, K. (2020). Engaging Students in Virtual Instruction With the Camera Off. Retrieved from: http://www.edutopia.org/article/engaging-students-virtual-instruction-camera

Terada, Youki, (2020). 5 Research-Backed Tips to Improve Your Online Teaching Presence. Retrieved from: http://www.edutopia.org/article/5-research-backed-tips-improve-your-online-teaching-presence.

PME 811 – How Has Teaching and Learning Changed Due to COVID-19 – Entry 1

Quotes about Strong survive (59 quotes)

September 29th

Be Prepared for Change

As of September, some teachers have been working full time in a classroom, some are working from home and still others are doing a mix of both. All of those scenarios come with positives and negatives. Even though some of us would prefer to teach or learn in person, it does not mean that this is possible right now. We need to adapt and become “responsive to change.” COVID-19 is here for the foreseeable future, and to protect one another we have to understand that some changes are necessary for the common good. My son’s school is doing a fantastic job of protecting staff and students within a hybrid model, but this week they are back to online learning due to a COVID case which has put too many staff in quarantine to offer in person learning. Staff and students have to adapt to an evolving situation and learn to be prepared for a variety of scenarios.

I was extremely disappointed when I found out all my classes would be online. I did not want to teach remotely. I like socializing with my colleagues and I like the down time with my students. I enjoy our greetings, our chit chat throughout our lessons, and that is something that is now missing. I am still struggling to create some atmosphere in my classes. I should mention that I teach English as an additional language and for anyone who has taught or learned a language, working remotely can present specific challenges in terms of sound quality and the possibility of missing sounds or words. Although this can happen in all online teaching, missing words or making mistakes needs be corrected promptly before errors are ingrained. With that being said, working online is certainly efficient and streamlined. There isn’t the downtime, so there is actually more time for learning, which is a positive.

Online learning is not new and there have certainly been a lot of studies dedicated to researching the efficacy of remote learning.

Neuhauser (2010): Online learning is as effective as face-to-face learning

Johnson, Aragon, & Shaik (2000): Online learning is as effective as face-to-face learning for graduate students

The majority of the studies have concluded that online learning is as effective as in person learning, but it can depend on what aspect you are looking at. For example, online learning is less expensive than in person learning, but there are upkeep costs to consider, which can add up in ways not always anticipated. (Strother (2002) 

Just because online learning is effective and usually less expensive, doesn’t mean it is ideal for everyone. Some students definitely do better with in person learning, as the physical act of walking into the school indicates it is time for work, where some people have a harder time switching to learning mode in their homes. There are always other distractions such as gaming, eating, texting and napping to name a few.

I have been seeking out articles to help me better engage with my students. Here is one such article from Edutopia: 5 Research-Backed Tips to Improve Your Online Teaching Presence
http://www.edutopia.org/article/5-research-backed-tips-improve-your-online-teaching-presence.

Thinking back to the Darwin quote, our reality has changed. My goal, like many other people is to rise to this challenge. We need to find new ways to connect, to communicate and build relationships and communities, despite our physical separation.