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7 Tips for Educators Returning to School During COVID-19

When COVID-19 restrictions ease, students and educators must adapt and prepare for a return to schools. School staff will need to support students in the transition back to the classroom, and at the same time manage their own transition and anxiety.

This article from Anxiety BC provides suggestions for school staff on how to support this transition, particularly for anxious students. While the focus is on preparing for school reopenings, these tips can also help educators prepare for transitions back to a virtual classroom.

How to Help

1. Validate, support, and listen to students

As educators, it is important to listen to students’ concerns and, even if the emotions are extreme, express understanding and empathy. Letting families know you understand and appreciate their perspective will help open up a dialogue for problem solving.

2. Be honest and encouraging, rather than reassuring

Anxious students will likely need some initial assurance from trusted adults and teachers that returning to school is okay.

However, blanket reassurance statements (e.g., everything will be fine; there is nothing to be worried about) can be invalidating and can create doubt and uncertainty that may drive a need for further reassurance. This cycle can lead to what is known as excessive reassurance seeking (child constantly asks if things are okay).

Instead, being open, honest, and encouraging with students is a preferred approach. This may include acknowledging risks while emphasizing how precautions reduce those risks and how students can feel good about coming back to school given all of the thought and planning that has gone into protecting students.

3. Encourage a gradual approach, not avoidance

No amount of planning will prevent students from being anxious. Therefore, encouraging tolerance of fear and anxiety, rather than avoidance, will be essential.

While being understanding and validating of students’ anxiety, school staff should encourage and reinforce families in making attempts to face fears around returning to school. If significant anxiety prevents a direct transition back, establishing a plan for gradual re-entry to school may be necessary.

4. Praise and reward students for being courageous

When you see a student or fellow staff member do something that you know is hard for them or provokes anxiety, let them know you’ve noticed it and are proud of them for facing their fears courageously.

5. Model good coping behaviors for students – be calm, honest, and caring

Telling students about your own experiences with anxiety and uncertainty, as well as your coping strategies, can make them feel less alone and can provide them with a guide for how to handle the situation themselves.

These are challenging discussions that aren’t easy for anyone, but helping students develop an ability to be ‘comfortable being uncomfortable’ may help them cope with future anxieties.

6. Provide clear information to families as early as possible

Anxiety thrives on uncertainty and the COVID-19 pandemic is filled with it. While tolerating uncertainty will be required for families to some extent, school administrators and educators can ease the transition by working together to communicate frequently and clearly with families about what is planned for returning to school.

7. Take care of yourself and know your limits

Most importantly, ensure you are showing yourself compassion as well as others. You may need an extra break or two in your day to regroup given all these changes.

Excerpted from “7 Tips for Educators Returning to School During COVID-19” in Anxiety BC. Read the full text of the post online.

Source: Anxiety BC | 7 Tips for Educators Returning to School During COVID-19, https://www.anxietycanada.com/articles/7-tips-for-educators-returning-to-school-during-covid-19 | copyright Anxiety BC 2021

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