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Transitioning Back To School: A Kindness-Led Approach

Picture of a hopscotch - transitioning back to school after COVID-19

Now that you’ve all successfully become online teachers, for many of you, it’s now time to successfully transition kids back into the classroom after the most globally disruptive event in our lifetimes. Just another month in 2020, right? 

Here’s hoping all of those tweets from parents insisting on pay rises come to fruition. Until then, this is what we’ve come up with as a framework for how you might want to approach going back into the classroom. 

Its actually a pretty simple concept but it’s also one that’s absent from the mainstream work culture. The more we read things like this article, the more we rewrite our own mindset and actually do it.

Kindness-first approach to leadership

Firstly, let’s acknowledge that there isn’t a single term that encompasses what teachers holistically do. At any given moment, you’re educating, but you’re also advocating for students, being a role model that they can emulate, and providing them with guidance and leadership.

Leading with kindness is something that teachers are naturally inclined to do. Empathy is a ‘soft skill’ but it really does the hard yards in a crisis. Thanks to the COVID-19 crisis, we can see quite clearly that it works on a national level to bring a kind of ‘get-through-it-ness’ that is calm, hopeful, and successful. 

There’s hardly a news publication that hasn’t pointed out the success of female leadership during this time. But you just can’t say it too many times in our humble opinion. So here it is again:

“Current data shows that countries with women in a leadership position have suffered six times fewer confirmed deaths from Covid-19 than countries with governments led by men.” 

Source: Open Democracy – Women in power: countries with female leaders suffer six times fewer Covid deaths and will recover sooner from recession

The fact that these typically ‘feminine’ characteristics that have been traditionally viewed as a weakness is something that we can change by exhibiting them ourselves.

You are an advocate and an example that kids will emulate – calm, confident, empathetic, heart-led, and kind to yourself. 

Importance of avoiding emotional exhaustion and burnout

Our work culture makes the typical signs of exhaustion and burnout difficult to recognise. Resilience, hard work, and pushing through are seen as morally good and virtuous. When you’re a teacher with a whole classroom full of little eyes upon you, there’s also the very real pressure — if you don’t push through and show up, who will? 

A lack of real understanding and solutions from government can feel demoralizing. For anyone who has been in that headspace before, we all know how difficult it is to get out of.

The approach: Create the classroom you need for yourself

One of the most authentic ways to create a classroom environment that’s kind to kids, is to start with you.

Have empathy for whatever mood you’re in

Over the past few months, people have really opened up about good days and bad days — and there’s not always a situation that causes a bad day. In moments where you go to suppress things as ‘it’s not a big deal’, try thinking of how you would treat your kids in your classroom in the same situation.

If ever your classroom is going to be a mixed bag of kids feelings, it’s right now. And their reaction to COVID-19 is going to be totally unpredictable, even more so than ours as adults. We don’t know how their little minds have reacted to the uncertainty, the lack of social interaction, and what’s been going on at home.

That’s always going to create mood swings for reasons none of us can see. This article by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides some guidance on what behaviours can be generally expected at what age group in emergencies. 

Carve out time for yourself 

Even if it means not doing a very good job of something. Maybe this can’t be every day but if you can’t find time every week then perhaps its time to reach out to your friends, family, community, and ask for help. 

Challenge yourself on placing & results-based pressures

What’s being dubbed ‘target culture’, a focus on targets and excessive paperwork is beginning to be publicly acknowledge as bad for teacher’s mental health — and there’s a British report that addresses it.

The University of California made the decision late last month to begin phasing out standardized tests, SAT and ACT. While they’re not eliminating tests completely (they’re looking into their own) we hope this will be part of a movement towards a more holistic view of education. 

The University of California has 10 schools with approximately 238,000 students and more than 190,000 faculty and staff so it does hold some serious clout.

While this isn’t a solution, it’s important that we start correlating results-based pressure with mental health so that things can start to change.

 

This is an amazing opportunity to help kids learn to be kind to themselves. Something most of us weren’t taught as part of our school education. It’s also just really nice for for us to be kind to ourselves too.

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