Wellbeing guidance for teachers

The changes in alert levels may have been a shock to the system once more. It’s a reminder about the need to keep united together, to be kind as we get through this phase, to stamp out Covid-19. This disruption to our lives again, it’s nothing that we can’t handle together and haven't done already.

You are doing a wonderful job of keeping your community safe throughout COVID-19.  Your school or kura, as well as the Ministry of Education, are doing all we can to support you and your students at this time.

You are all familiar with the alert level requirements, and have responded well to the immediate change in alert levels.

Information about the alert levels are below:

Early learning services

School and kura

Tertiary providers

Reassuring students, their whānau and your colleagues

Know that some families may be anxious about their children with the changes to the alert levels. For students it will set off a flurry of feelings about how things were before, and how they managed their learning. Some will be really disappointed that their sports have been cancelled again and for some, that they can’t go to their early learning services, schools or kura.

However, you all got through this before, so remind students, their whanau and your colleagues they can do this again, whether they are learning from home or at your early learning service, school or kura. Anxious feelings, angry and frustrated feelings and feeling scared, are normal responses to abnormal situations. These feelings can be expected during times of transition or change. We need to keep reinforcing the need to unite, to get through and to keep being kind to each other as we deal with the changes.

Be assured, even though children and young people will have a range of reactions, these will settle as new routines are re-established. Children and young people adjust to changes, when they know about the expectations and feel safe. They know and have practiced routines that are needed, they just might need reminding and reinforcing about these again. When students and their families are reassured of their safety, students can focus on learning with their peers. For some students, changes in their family incomes and work will create additional stresses. Be aware of these and support conversations about what they need to help support their learning.

Continue to have conversations with others in your household and any students that you are worried about. Check-in with them on the latest trends and happenings, and what they are interested in!

Some children will be anxious about this disruption to their usual schedules.

Remember to:

  • Pay attention to their feelings
  • Encourage them to share, and listen to their worries and concerns
  • Let them know it’s normal to feel worried and anxious in stressful and uncertain times
  • Guide them to be positive (e.g. encourage them to reflect on their successes, and the things they are thankful for)

Further key suggestions you may want to consider?

  • Making time to speak to students/your child about how they want to learn. Discuss if that is possible in their household?
  • Keeping a focus on wellbeing – if children are stressed or unhappy they will not find learning easy. If you are stressed or unhappy take time out and connect in with a colleague to discuss

Teaching in the classroom or your early learning service

  • If things get a bit difficult in your early learning service or the classroom, be patient, listen. Focus on what we are doing to stay safe and how everyone is working together to help each other again. Children and young people also need to hear about positive action that is happening. This will provide inspiration and hope for their future.
  • Distracting children from things they find distressing can be appropriate. Acknowledge their sadness, fear or anxiety but gently move on to another activity. Use calming relaxation exercises, listen to a story or quiet music. Sparklers has a range of great activities to explore https://sparklers.org.nz/(external link)
  • Have fun. Playing a game, designing an activity together, re-reading a favourite story or watching a video can help lift the mood. Children need to know that in the midst of uncertainty there is still happiness and hope.
  • Games, physical challenges, and getting outdoors can release energy and tension as well as provide a break from any indoor activities.

Take time to check in with your colleagues, look after yourself and each other as you develop your resources. Keep building in times during the days, weeks and ahead to keep checking in on each other, creating support buddies or groups can help.

Structure your days – one day at a time

If your routine has been shaken up, like you’re now working from home, it’s good to structure your time. Routines are reassuring, and promote health and physical wellbeing.

Schools will use a blend of online and offline lessons to ensure that children have a break from screen time. "Live teaching" through skype or zoom is only one form of teaching and learning. Too much of it can increase screen time, and reduce self-directed learning which is an important skill for students.

Home Learning TV | Papa Kāinga TV is back to support learning for children aged 2 to 11 years while Auckland remains in Alert Level 3 and the rest of the country is in Alert Level 2.

Te Tāhuhu o Te Mātauranga and Māori Television are again also delivering ‘Mauri Reo, Mauri Ora’

Remember also that learning happens everywhere, homes and local areas are already good learning environments. Lots of opportunities for learning can be found through every day activities such as cooking, gardening, budgeting and exercising.

Consider scheduling time to use social media and establish usage time parameters. There are apps that can help block certain sites at particular hours of the day or by tracking the amount of time used on social media and check out Advice for teachers and parents about social media - NetSafe(external link)(external link)

To help learning at home

Create a PHYSICAL SPACE

Everyone in the family is now learning or working from home. How can I ensure the environment supports children learning?

  • Discuss and decide on the various areas at home for learning, working, resting and bonding together. For instance, a child could do his/her home based learning at the dining table while an adult works in the living room.
  • Older children may also need a quiet space to learn, where and when could this occur
  • When are the times when everyone may learn together or independently?
  • Set up respective areas as a family.

Create a DIGITAL SPACE

1 laptop, 3 children having Homebased learning. How to manage?

There might not be a need to get more devices.

  • Find out the different lessons and tasks assigned each child or student
  • Get them to prioritise these lessons/tasks based on urgency and importance
  • Together, work out a schedule to decide who uses the device at what time
  • Children can use WiFi enabled mobile phones for online lessons that involve video conferencing
  • Free up the laptops and tablets for assignments and lessons that are easier to access on these larger devices.

Create a SPACE for work and their independence

Setting expectations: Now that I work from home, my child keeps asking me for help. I don’t want to hurt their feelings by shutting them out, but I have work commitments too. Help!

It is natural for children to approach their parents/caregiver for help, but there are ways to make it more manageable. Set expectations with children – for instance:

  • Be responsible (e.g. follow the timetable, no TV/online games until assignments/tasks are completed)
  • Be respectful (e.g. when someone is engaged in a “live” lesson or teleconference, don’t interrupt)
  • Set boundaries (e.g. what does the child need to seek permission on, when can children approach parents and caregivers)

Routines

Establish new routines

  • Draw up family timetables together. Mark out the timeslots that each family member is busy and/or going “live” (for lessons or teleconferencing). This allows the family to know when they have to give privacy.
  • It can be useful to start and end the day at the same time as usual, but remember learning doesn’t need to happen between 9 and 3 and there may be things that children need to help with around the house like cleaning or laundry and that’s ok, as long as it’s part of the new routine.
  • It’s also easy to get carried away when working from home. Use the time saved from travelling to create new experiences with the family!
  • Having a routine or schedule that works for the whole family is important so that everybody knows what to expect. Learning happens all the time, and can be woven in to the whānau routine. Remember it takes time to get in to a new routine. Take small steps and learn what works on the way.

To help juggle work, while supporting children.

  • Agree on Check-in Slots
  • Agree on structured time (e.g. 10 min per hour) for children to seek help or advice (e.g. requesting for snacks, logging on to devices).
  • As children gets used to the routines, they will ask for help at the appropriate times.

Supporting independent learning

How can I help children learn more independently?

  • Create a space (online or hardcopy) for children to note down questions and encourage him/her to find out the answers from his/her classmates and teachers. Make the relevant contact details of the teachers easily available.
  • Guide children to search for answers on his/her own (e.g. through the google/online libraries if available).
  • Encourage children to share his/her learning with parents/caregivers daily.

At the end of the day, let children know that it is ok not to get the right answers all the time – what matters is that he/she has put in his/her best effort!

Create moments

I will be spending much more time with others at home, what if we run out of things to talk about and do?

Use this opportunity to try to connect in with each other. Try these activities together:

  • Start a new hobby, or something new?
  • Prepare a meal for the family
  • Keep your home clean and conducive to family life.

Continue to have conversations with others in your household and any students that you are worried about. Check-in with them on the latest trends and happenings, and what they are interested in!

Some children will be anxious about this disruption to their usual schedules.

Remember to:

  • Pay attention to their feelings
  • Encourage them to share, and listen to their worries and concerns
  • Let them know it’s normal to feel worried and anxious in stressful and uncertain times
  • Guide them to be positive (e.g. encourage them to reflect on their successes, and the things they are thankful for).

Further key suggestions you may want to consider?

  • Making time to speak to students/your child about how they want to learn. Discuss if that is possible in their household?
  • Keeping a focus on wellbeing – if children are stressed or unhappy they will not find learning easy. If you are stressed or unhappy take time out and connect in with a colleague to discuss.

Coping with Isolation

You have experienced isolation before and while some people enjoyed isolation, others find this trickier. If the thought of isolation is a big challenge for you, be proactive in staying connected. Here are ways to do that:

  • Online communities: While sticking to the social media routine (i.e. not over-excessive time online), find online communities that are sharing these experiences and check out how other communities around the world are getting together. There are groups on WeChat, Facebook and WhatsApp that are just for parents and educators going through this.
  • Colleague and Friend “Happy Hours”: Reconnecting with our friends and colleagues helps to boost our moods and will decrease our stress. Find that happiness once a week by scheduling a regular video call with your friends in the same situation.

You can play pictionary, charades or other group games, you can each make a meal around some sort of theme and then show it to each other and eat together no matter where you are. Whatever your style, create rituals together and don’t let the distance get in the way.

When you call a friend, take a few breaths and then ask yourself this: What do I hope to get out of this conversation? A solution? Understanding? Advice? Make sure you tell your friend what you need when you speak with them.

Show compassion, this builds everyone’s sense of hope

Show compassion to the people around you and kindness for those affected by the latest outbreak. Encourage children and young people to do the same. Remind everyone this is no one’s fault, it is a very tricky virus that has now affected countries world-wide.

We did so well to keep this out the first time and we are all working together to track, trace and stamp out the virus again.

If there’s no-one around you, reach out. Send a thoughtful or upbeat text or snapchat to someone who might need one — or someone who might be on their own. Connect in positive and loving ways and provide help where you can.

Avoid excessive blaming

When tensions are high, sometimes we try to blame someone. Check in with children and young people about what they may be are saying and model kindness and compassion:

  • Avoid stereotyping any one group of people as responsible for the virus.
  • Negative comments made toward others are hurtful. Let your school or early learning service know by email if these are happening, so they can also help.
  • Be aware of any comments that other adults are making around your family. You may have to explain what comments mean if they are different than the values that you have at home.
  • Monitor television viewing and social media
  • With all the changes it can be helpful to limit your own television viewing or access to information on the Internet and through social media. Try to avoid watching or listening to information that might be upsetting when children and young people are present.
  • Speak to children and young people about how many stories about COVID-19 on the Internet may be based on rumours and inaccurate information, and ways they can access factual information.
  • Review and model basic hygiene and healthy lifestyle practices for protection
  • Encourage children and young people to practice every day good hygiene—to prevent spread of illness:
  • Model handwashing frequently and reinforce this if you leave and/or return to the house.
  • Reinforce sneezing or coughing into the bend of their elbow, using tissues and throwing these away.
  • Practice giving fist or elbow bumps instead of handshakes. Fewer germs are spread this way.
  • Encourage children and young people to eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly; this will help them develop a strong immune system to fight off illness.
  • Discuss new rules or practices at home.
  • Keep in contact with your child’s school and let them know if there are any changes within your family. You should be able to contact them by email.

Promoting kindness and respect

There are lots of concerns that families, children and young people recently affected by COVID 19 are being subjected to unpleasant and online abuse. Remind everyone that there is no shame or blame for anyone who has the disease. Reinforce that COVID-19 virus is the problem - not the people who have it.

During this time it is vital to be clear about and reinforce your school values, use these to support the way all school staff talk about and care for others. The Not Part of My World toolkit is a teaching resource that can be used in years 3-8 to support understanding of all cultures, to reduce racism.

As you know, there is also a wide range of resources and guidance on tackling bullying behaviours, which often emerge from racist beliefs, can be found at bullyingfree.nz. Everyone in the education system needs to have a clear understanding of different lives, perspectives, and cultures.

The Race Relations Commissioner has asked that schools do their best to stop racist or discriminatory behaviour and promote and facilitate kindness and respect.

Not Part of My World – Diversity toolkit(external link)

Bullyingfree.nz(external link)

Don’t forget - take a breath! If you're relaxed and calm, children and young people will look to you for the support they need and be ready to learn.

 

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