March 12, 2020.
That was the last day things seemed "normal" in my world.
That was the day it was announced that as of 5 PM Friday, March 13, 2020, all schools would close. Childcare centers would close and could reopen with permission, to serve Essential personnel only.
And all of us were asked to obey the Stay-at-home orders.
Six months have passed. Things are slowly reopening, but nothing is back to normal.
So how do you remain calm and sane when your world has been upended?
Everyone is feeling anxious and stressed. Everyone is overwhelmed with the amount of virtual and socially distanced learning. Many of us are juggling work responsibilities and our own children who may need supervision with virtual or hybrid learning. Setting up a classroom with social distance for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers requires thinking outside the box. The extra cleaning and hand-washing precautions require rethinking our time and schedules.
Let's break this down.
- Acknowledge what you CAN do!
- There is no way any of us can do everything. Focus on what's right in front of you, at this moment, and put everything else aside. When you've addressed or completed what is in front of you now, move on to the next task. The more you try to do all at once, the more frustrated you will feel. Multitasking is a myth. You are actually more productive focusing on one task at a time.
- Accept what you can't do. It's OK.
- Practice a growth mindset. The most important word is "yet." I haven't done that, yet. I can't do that, yet. I don't know that, yet.
- If no one is bleeding or sick, you're doing great! Safety is our first priority with the children, at home and at school.
- When you are teaching, rethink your day and what you can reasonably accomplish.
- There is no way you will be able to follow your pre-COVID schedule. You have more responsibilities. Allow extra time for cleaning and handwashing so you don't feel rushed.
- Keep in mind that children more from play than from direct instruction. Build in more play time and less whole group time.
- For curriculum and assessment, remember EVERYONE is feeling the pinch here. Virtual instruction is not the same as in-person. Socially-distanced instruction is not the same as a fully-staffed, fully-enrolled non-COVID-restricted environment. It is OK to not get to everything.
- Relationships are the MOST important thing. Children do not have the same understanding of what's happening in the world that adults do. They need reassurance and comfort. They need to know they can count on you. They need to know you love them.
- REMEMBER: children need repetition and novelty to learn new concepts. They also need to feel safe to take risks. You must create an environment where children feel safe and nurtured before you can focus on learning new skills.
- Allow more time and more opportunities to repeat tasks and activities. If you don't get to everything you planned today, it's OK. You'll be back tomorrow or the next day. There is time to revisit anything you didn't finish, yet.
- When it seems like nothing you try is working, or you've hit your limit, GO OUTSIDE! Being out in nature is restorative for children and adults. Learning can continue outside. It is possible to teach all of your curricula outside, even in bad weather just dress appropriately. Taking children for a walk and observing the natural world is a wonderful experience. Running on the playground, screaming on the playground, or just sitting on the ground and looking up the sky can be very cathartic. Try it!
- When all else fails, take a break. Walk away, shift gears. Stop what you're doing and try something else.
One of the biggest challenges most educators have is that we tend to be nurturers. We take care of everyone else before we take care of ourselves.
It's so important to take time for yourself and engage in some self-care, even if it's only for a few minutes a day. Maybe it's a few minutes in the morning, getting up before everyone else in your house. Maybe it's a few minutes at the end of the day after your children go to bed, or a few minutes in the car. Find 5 minutes a day just for you. Even if all you do is close your eyes and breathe. Listen to your favorite music. Read for 5 minutes. Turn off your phone for 5 minutes. If you meditate or exercise, do that. Play with your pets. Whatever it takes, focus on you.
It will get better! You've got this!
What are some ways you handle stress and take care of you?