First and foremost, we are not exaggerating in the least by saying that educators have stood out as true heroes these past 12 months. We interviewed teachers at districts across the nation as we were building our social and emotional health Student uMap™ software and the overwhelming dedication to adapting classrooms to fit the needs of their students was apparent.
Constantly finding ways to keep students engaged and support their mental health can be taxing, so we’d like to share five strategies to help.
- Start Each Day with a Quick Connection Activity
15 minutes a day devoted to building a connection can go a long way. The ERIC institute of Education Sciences identifies four key themes at the heart of a good student/teacher relationship:
As an additional resource, we’ve created a list of 5 free connection activities you can immediately put to good use in your classroom.
And while those exercises are a great short-term boost, our mission at Student uMap™ is to make such supportive connections easy and sustainable. If you’d like to see how, I’d love to show you here with a 30min demo.
- Create opportunities for one-on-one conversations
Meeting one-on-one with authority figures can be scary since most of us have been conditioned at an early age to associate these meetings as disciplinary and serious. You can avoid this by setting the standard early with a short one-on-one casual conversation with each of your students.
We coach our educator partners to create a safe space for their students by easing into the conversation with a personal, not performance topic. Share a story, ask a question, or even play some quick trivia games!
At the end of each conversation is an excellent opportunity to honor the whole student by bridging the gap between school and home life. As long as they’re comfortable, you can ask questions about extracurricular activities or how they’re feeling outside of the classroom.
- Model Trust and Vulnerability
The best way to build vulnerability through trust is to model it first! Share parts of your life that your students might find relatable, even if it’s not always positive.
Sharing your struggles and experiences will help them talk about their own mistakes and deepen your relationship with them. Not only that, they’ll use your own stories to model their own coping mechanisms around.
When you are real your students will be real too!
- Empower Students to Share
Now that you have paved the way by being open with your students, make sure to create opportunities for them to come to the table and share a little bit of what is going on in their lives!
Encouraging your students to understand and accept this kind of vulnerability helps alleviate stigmas revolving mental health. We recommend beginning the process in a one-on-one setting (we use our Thrive365™ coaching platform to make this possible whether you’re interacting in-person or behind a screen) to ensure privacy and then opening it up for voluntary sharing with larger peer groups.
- Celebrate Them!
Celebration doesn’t have to be an elaborate event. It can be as simple as sending an email or chatting to both students and their parents. Taking special note on hurdles that they are overcoming, the great progress they’ve made on a specific goal or the fact that they are participating more and more in class are all valid and great reasons for a small celebration between you and your students.
Remember, you are a hero and your community truly appreciates the work you’ve done going above-and-beyond this year.
As a former 8th grade teacher myself, I’m always interested in learning more about what specific challenges you may be facing or new creative ideas you’re seeing success with. If you’re open to connecting, I’d love to hear more!