Caring for yourself and your students during the crisis.
By Adam Weiner, JD, CFSE
This is the third part of my three-part series on low-tech ways to virtually teach your classes. The first gave 10 suggestions and the second 10 additional suggestions on topics to teach your classes while your school is temporarily closed.
Today, I want to give you a few ways to think beyond the curriculum and taking care of your students. I want you to think about taking care of yourself.
During a regular school year, our students rely on us to be a role model. They won’t admit it, but what we demonstrate as a role model is probably more important to them than what we teach in our curriculum. In difficult times, this is even more of an issue. Your students will put on a mask of false bravado (with apologies to the song by Player, “Baby Come Back”) yet now, more than ever, they need communication from you. They need to know your concerns go beyond making sure they do their virtual classwork.
My daughter is a sixth-grade science teacher. When her school closed, she was asked to call all her students each week, at least once per week, to check in with them. When she started this, she told me she expected the students would push her aside and tell her they are doing their work and ask why is she bothering to call them.
What she found is the students really appreciated the check-in phone calls. She told me the parents appreciated it as well. She also sends a five-minute video each day to her class. She uses the time to say hello and give them suggestions on things they can do (like play super heroes with their younger brother/sister), and give them pointers on staying healthy (such as get off your devices and go outside and play but stay six feet away from non-family members).
If you haven’t already done so, you might want to follow that lead. Here are some ideas:
- Do a non-curriculum video and send it to all your students.
- Have your students make videos about ways they are handling the situation and send them to you. Tell them you will send a few of them to the class. (NOTE: Don’t send anything unless you have reviewed it. If there is slang or phraseology you don’t understand then you probably shouldn’t send it.)
- Make phone calls to your students or their parents. Space them out and try not to call everyone in one day.
- Start your online or virtual classes with a few moments of social talk.
- Ask your students to reach out to you with healthy ways they are coping and then spread those ideas (with permission) to other students.
When you listen to the airline safety drill and the flight attendant says, “Place your oxygen mask on before helping someone else.” What they are trying to say is that, unless you take care of yourself first, you won’t be in a position to help others. Although I am not a Wellness Coach, I have a few ideas for your personal wellness. If you don’t watch out for your wellness, then how can you watch out for your students’ wellness? (Remember what I wrote above about being a role model?)
- My personal favorite was inspired by something said by the Governor of California. In a press conference a few days ago, he said to call five people per day and check in on them. I work on making five (non-work) phone calls a day to friends I am worried about or to friends I don’t normally call. Everyone is always surprised and pleased to get the calls, particularly the ones I don’t call often. I tell them the call is courtesy of the Governor. One of the interesting things about this is that it not only makes them feel better, but it makes me feel more cheerful and useful as well.
- Stay away from the doom and gloom. It is important to stay informed, but don’t binge on Coronavirus news. My wife and I watched the 6 o’clock news yesterday. We then went to watch the 10 o’clock news. When they started showing the same stories we didn’t switch to another channel, we turned off the TV and put on a DVD.
- Do something fun or silly or entertaining you wouldn’t normally do. That DVD I just referred to was Disc 3 of Season 3 of the Muppet Show. We haven’t watched that for over 10 years. To paraphrase Waldorf and Stadler (and if you don’t know who they are, look up old shows on YouTube): “It was stupid, it was silly, it was pointless. WE LOVED IT!”
- Do something you haven’t done before. Tonight, at dinner I am going to make purple potato soup. If it comes out great, that is wonderful. If it doesn’t come out great, who cares? It will be fun and different.
- Keep getting your exercise. Walk if you are allowed. Social distance is great. But when you detour around someone, wave or call out, “Good morning.” I might be keeping social distance, but I’ve had more social interaction with people this way. My friends gave me their exercise bike so that when it rains I can bike and read and listen to music.
- Do something nice for others. We have some elderly friends who don’t cook. When I make dinner, I make extra and walk it over to them. I put it on their doorstep, back up to the street, and call them. Social distance food delivery!
- Do something nice for yourself. Don’t overspend or binge but go online and get something you want. You deserve a treat.
- Do something that makes you feel good or makes you smile. Read a favorite book again, take a short nap, draw a picture, listen to an old comedy routine (like “Who’s on First?”). Or for those of you working from home, make yourself feel good by turning work off at the end of the day and focusing on yourself or family.
- Get yourself out of a rut. If you normally make tacos on Thursday for your family, instead make corn bread and chili or have Thai food. Now I am going to do two things differently. I wrote an article about “Anything Can Happen” Thursday but I won’t link it in this sentence as I normally do. When I give lists or suggestions to you, I normally give five or 10. Even the two articles mentioned in the second paragraph of this article each gave 10 suggestions. To do something different, get out of a rut, and give myself a smile, I am going to end this list with nine!
Note: I would like to dedicate this article to Veronica Alvarez, Stanford University LCSW and Wellness Instructor. She has been an amazing wellness coach to me for years. I will never be a “B” Personality, but she has definitely changed me from an "A" Personality to "A-".
Adam Weiner, JD, CFSE, has been a culinary instructor in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than 16 years.