- Find success during this pandemic by accepting that things are not normal, prioritizing self-care, and extending grace.
- Self-care is not a myth. You need to allow yourself to unwind and turn school off for a while.
- We all need to extend grace to ourselves, to our students, and to our families.
An Elevated Level of Stress
One of the most prevalent issues we face in these trying times is what can best be described as behavioral issues we see in school, not only from students, but from staff and families. There is almost a theme we can see played out in our schools. Everything seems “off.” It’s no wonder we see students acting off-kilter in class. But beyond that, we see staff members that sometimes have shorter than usual fuses. And we see parents who react vigorously to things at school that normally would not create as big an issue.
To be clear, these issues existed before March 2020 when COVID-19 became the deciding factor in how schools operate. There have always been stressors in the community that play out in the behavior of all members of our school family.
However, the biggest difference post-March 2020 is the fact that this level of change and difference is pervasive. There’s literally nobody that has not been touched by the pandemic. This may weigh even more heavily on those of us who have returned face to face in our school buildings. We are trying to create a relative “normalcy “in our schools, while students and staff are remaining socially distanced, wearing masks, and existing in a social environment with measures that restrict sociability.
No wonder there is an elevated level of stress! Add to this the economic uncertainties caused by job insecurities, and either decreased services or increased need to use community services. It’s something even our brave and compassionate teachers and school staff are dealing with in their own personal lives.
Find Success: So What Do We Do as Educators?
So what do we as educators do in order to decrease the level of stress on ourselves and our students, while also maintaining a quality school environment? The first thing is to accept and understand that things are not normal. We are not operating the way we were before this pandemic. And most likely, we will not ever go back fully to the way it was.The greatest thing we can do in our business of growing humans is to be fully human ourselves! This is true not only in our current situation, but hopefully, will be one of the best things to emerge from this period in our history! Click To Tweet
For many of us, the realization of this fact will help us reframe in our minds where our expectations should be. We can begin to see the possibilities and opportunities presented to us in a post-COVID school world. Once we allow ourselves to see the potential positive effects of our work with our students, we are on the way to alleviating some of the stresses that we can control.
For our students and our families, the best thing we can do is be as present as we can be. This is what we as educators already do best! We always find the good in a situation and show our students and families the possibilities beyond what seems evident right now. This may require us to look at things differently. But we always keep in mind that educating students goes beyond quick results. It adds layers of resiliency and skill so they can create their own successful paths.
Find Success: Self-Care is NOT a Myth!
We also need to do the thing that is probably most difficult for educators. That is, we need to consciously practice self-care. This is NOT a platitude or empty feel-good advice. This is the flight attendant telling you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping another.
Our schools are no good without a good you. I can’t stress strongly enough the need to allow yourself to unwind and turn school off for a while. As a principal, I urge you to not read your emails after a certain hour and to do something you enjoy doing for yourself.
Now here is what will seem like contradictory advice. If you are the teacher that can’t relax unless all your school chores are done, by all means, keep working! I have several staff members that ask me every weekend to turn off the alarm at school so they can go up and prepare for Monday. I have always allowed it, but always tease them about staying home and watching TV instead.
What I’ve learned about some teachers is that this IS their form of self-care. They can only relax if they feel like everything is done. And if that makes them happy, I’m glad to do what I can to help it happen![scroll down to keep reading]
Find Success: Thriving by Extending Grace
Finally, we all need to extend grace as far out as we can to ourselves, to our students, and to our families. Nothing is ever gained in schools by being inflexible or putting procedures before people. Hold your expectations high, and give students and families every opportunity to meet and exceed them. Expect work to be done, and find out why it’s not being turned in.
You may discover that bad habits are allowed to flourish. Concentrate on doing what you can to change them. You may find that your efforts don’t get fully satisfying results. Still, you will know that you did what you could to create success.
The greatest thing we can do in our business of growing humans is to be fully human ourselves! This is true not only in our current situation, but hopefully, will be one of the best things to emerge from this period in our history!
About Martin Silverman
Martin Silverman is a father, grandfather, husband, and long-time educator in beautiful San Antonio, Texas. He is committed to providing the best educational experience for the students and families at Salinas Elementary school where he is principal. Martin has worked in urban, suburban, and rural districts as a teacher and administrator. His interests are in creating and nurturing school culture, providing enriching experiences for students and families, and developing future teachers and administrators.
As a former bilingual teacher and administrator, Martin is committed to providing ELL students with quality programs to develop their unique skills. He hosts a podcast called The Second Question, which highlights educators and provides them a forum to discuss ideas, and to honor the teachers that have influenced their lives.