Reflection #5: Being Intentional to Build Resilience and Hope with Joan Young and Barbara Bray
I have known Joan Young over 10 years and realize through her background in psychology and teaching that we needed to connect. After talking for a few minutes on May 31st, we decided it was a good idea to discuss some of the issues around emotional health during this pandemic and issues around racism. It took a few days to pull this together but felt it was timely with everything happening.
How has the pandemic impacted teaching and learning? What will that mean if or when schools open again?
Barbara: Teachers were asked to balance remote teaching at home. Yet, many have their own children who miss their peers and need support with home learning activities. Teachers tried to recreate schools online but it was difficult to teach the same way. The stress has been overwhelming for both teachers, parents, and students. Attendance suffered. Some schools and districts realized these pressures and waived standardized tests, homework, and grades. More teachers changed the focus from teaching content to building relationships and social-emotional learning with students and their families. When school opens again, teachers will see the value of building those relationships first.
Joan: As a middle school counselor and teacher, the pandemic has meant distance learning, meeting on zoom, and trying to decipher the emotions of students through a screen: not ideal. I agree with Barbara about relationships being at the forefront when we are back to school in whatever way that is. One of the greatest sources of burnout for teachers is when the quality of their relationships with colleagues and administrators is not safe or encouraging. This was before the pandemic and I think it will ring even more true as we learn and are forced to learn new ways to approach teaching. We need each other, and we need to feel safe as we fumble through these new challenges. With students, relationships have always been critical but even more so now. I notice that teachers who had good relationships with many of their students have fared better with engaging their students on Zoom. Those who didn’t struggle and have a tendency to blame students for hiding behind the screen and not coming on camera.
What has become more apparent since the pandemic?
Joan: The inequities and injustices that we have in our country have become even more apparent now that our people of color are dying at rates way beyond those of others. Undervalued and underpaid essential workers have been out there risking their lives on a daily basis, and it’s become clear that their lives are deemed by our government to be less important than our capitalist values. On another note: I think that the pandemic gives us time to pause and actually evaluate what it is we want our lives to be like. We can see it solely as a tragedy, which it has obviously been for over 100,000 lives (and still counting) lost in our country alone and we can also take this opportunity to stop and think about what we really want, personally and professionally. For me, being at home has led to me evaluating how I want to use my time more wisely: less scrolling and consuming, and more journaling, listening and working with others to find better ways to manage the stressors that have come with all of this.
Barbara: It is apparent who has the privilege to stay home, be able to go online, and even work from home. The coronavirus has disproportionately impacted peo…