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Teacher of the Year Writes a Letter to Parents about Virtual Learning
Many families find themselves in the midst of the Pandemic and the implications that affect daily life such as social distancing, virtual learning, and working from home. I am so lucky to have Leanne Rose here today to share advice.
She’s an amazing teacher, which I know from first-hand experience, as our son was lucky enough to have her as his teacher. She was the North Carolina’s Beginning Teacher of the Year – rightly so. She cares about the students so much, but it is so much more than academics. She cares about the whole child.
(This picture, below, captures her true joy that is present every day, as she teaches… even virtually ♥)
Here are five steps, from Mrs. Rose, a second-grade teacher. Her tips will help families that are venturing out into the new world of home-schooling!
Trust me when I say that Mrs. Rose leaves an impression on the hearts of every student that she teaches. ♥ She teaches her students so much more than academics. Mrs. Rose teaches them about changing their mindset, expanding their hearts, and believing in themselves. Here are her five steps to make the most of virtual learning…
Five Steps to Help Families During Virtual Learning
Please notice how this list does not focus on academics . As a teacher who centers attention on the whole child, I am concerned about their inner reality. Their reality encompasses their emotions, their input, and their understanding of what is going on.
There are so many things that schools do beyond education and I hope this list helps families to bring some social-emotional learning to home!
1. Change your family’s mindset towards positivity!
In the classroom, we talk about having a growth mindset .
A growth mindset is acknowledging that our mind is like any other muscle. Just like muscle groups you work out in the gym, our mind can grow and get better with conscious, focused practice. This mindset can greatly affect how we perceive the world.
While at home as a family, shift your mindset to see the bright side, see the best in the situations and continually give hope to your kids.
When you are pouring positivity into this time of change, it can determine the lense your children use to perceive the situation.
If you are positive, flexible, full of grace, and patient, your children are more likely to establish their own growth mindset and think positively about the school closings. It boils down to this: LEAD BY EXAMPLE.
2. Give your children ways to contribute to the NEW DAILY ROUTINE.
There is power in routines for children. There is research to support that children feel comfort, predictability, and safety in knowing what to expect.
In my classroom, I have an in-depth morning meeting ritual or a “Brain Smart Start.” This is a component of the teaching and parenting philosophy from Conscious Discipline . This morning routine gives students the chance to settle into school, remind them that a school is a safe place, give them a chance to leave life stressors at the door and focus on school.
(Find more about our Morning “Brain Smart Start” a little further down in this article)
While at home, the same stands true, there is power in routines.
If you work from home many of you know, it can be hard to separate personal and professional life. Being at home for extended periods of time, with the added responsibility of the school, make sure that your children have a routine to “get into school” mode and some special routine to “get out of school” mode.
If you can let your children help create this routine, it will help them “buy in.” If they are able to contribute to their new routine and new school days, they will be more likely to stick to it and get hopefully excited about it!
Some ideas for a morning/ afternoon routine:
Sing and make up a dance to an inspirational song:
Britt Nicole Be the Change
Collaborate to make your own “Daily Mantra” to remind yourselves WHY you are doing school at home.
Example from my Classroom which was inspired by Rita Pierson (if you have time, watch her inspirational TED talk)
Sit down and intentionally set and reflect on daily commitments. These are quantitative, realistic commitments that are written in “I will…” form (not “I can” or “I should”).
I had my class write them on sticky notes and then reflect on them at the end of the day. ↓
3. Put special emphasis on communication and validation.
During this time there are many news outlets with information about the coronavirus, how different countries are doing, and how many people are infected locally.
However discreet you may be, your children are gleaning these feelings of stress, fear, and confusion from you. It will be imperative to communicate with your children. Give them time to ask questions, share feelings and validate their emotional state.
When talking to your child about their questions and feelings, I think a crucial piece of advice is to share how you are feeling and doing. It can be easy to “preach on high,” stating how things are, without allowing your children to see your humanity. Showing your children your mistakes, your fears and your worries allow them to understand what it means to be human and what it means to be resilient in the face of adversity.
In the classroom and in life, it is important to model for kids how to process and regulate emotions. If you are able to talk daily, listen and not interrupt while your child is talking it will ease their anxiety and help them to become emotionally proficient adults!
4. Focus on safety and connection.
During times of unknown change and confusion, children can feel out of control. These feelings can manifest in many different ways, such as misbehavior, emotional outbursts, or selective seclusion.
A way to front-load these emotions is to fulfill all your children’s psychological needs. For that matter, this is an important way to interact with everyone in your life. There are three areas that need to be addressed consistently so people feel connected to their families and other support systems.
In my classroom, I have an in-depth morning meeting ritual and teacher/student conversations that focus on the brain state model. The brain state model is from Conscious Discipline as I stated earlier. This philosophy is for teachers and parents and is set up on Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs psychological principles. This means that every human has innate components to become self-fulfilled. They are broken up into three simple compounding stages.
Survival State- this can be simplified into the most simple physiological and safety needs. Everyone needs to know that they are going to be given proper nutrition, a place to sleep with adequate comforts, such as a warm bed. In addition, everyone needs to know that they are in a safe place. Children can have an overactive imagination and can worry themselves with concerns of security and physical safety.In the current state with coronavirus, kids might be worried about getting enough food or could be worried about physical or emotional safety in their homes if there is turmoil with bickering parents working from home. Keeping this in mind can allow you to comfort your child, showing and telling them that they are safe and they will be provided for.
Emotional State– this is their psychological needs of knowing they belong, are loved and are important. The key here is consistency and authentic connection. These emotional needs play a role in children’s self-esteem. When a child is shown and told on a daily basis that they are essential to their family or classroom unit, they are able to raise their self-esteem and have confidence that they are valued as a human.During this time of coronavirus, parents can get caught up in the health and safety of their family and could unintentionally ignore the very real emotions surrounding this difficult time.
Executive State– this is their self-fulfillment needs. Every human wants to feel like they have a purpose, they are autonomous and full of potential. This is the last area for children and all humans to reach. For students to think creatively, use problem-solving skills, and strategically work on assignments takes executive functioning skills. This area is self-growth and self-fulfillment. This time takes your child choosing to grow, takes time to successfully instill in oneself, and often takes intrinsic motivation to get there!
In almost every psychological stage I mention “showing and telling” them that they are safe and loved. This touches on knowing your child’s preferred method to be communicated with the five love languages for children . Do they prefer a hug or high five, affirmation, a prize or quality time? If you don’t know already and want to know, take this super helpful quiz .
5. Lead by example
I have touched on this point already but it is essential to expand on this point. Children feel off our internal states. This is true as a teacher and as a parent. If I was tired or having an off morning, oftentimes, my class would misbehave and start the day on a weird foot.
When we, as adults, are consumed with our own concerns, stressors or even just fatigue, we do not respond how we normally would. Instead of responding to a question with a friendly “oh, how can I help you?” I might respond with a firm “what?” I imagine when I am feeling particularly stressful, my stress is like orbiting rings around me.
My stress rings bump into others and often spread. Children can take on adult stress or adult emotions without understanding how or why. This can be confusing and start an educational day at home to be a challenging one. Children are impressive at picking up on nonverbal cues.
In my classroom, I teach about the kindness triangle (that I completely made up to explain nonverbal cues to 2nd graders).
I explain to them that to be kind and friendly we need to do three things:
Use kind words
Use a kind tone – With the wrong tone, our kind words can be off-putting.
Keep kind body language – With poor body language, our kind words and tone can be misinterpreted.
I give examples of each of these areas. It is a powerful lesson for adults and children that we choose each of those, every moment of every day. We choose the words we say, the tone we use and our body language or body position.
Those are three powerful areas if we are able to master them when we speak to others!
Leading by example means to take care of your internal state. Take some self-care time when your children are home.
Yes, you are in charge of their safety.
Yes, you are in charge of their meals.
Yes, you are suddenly in charge of their education.
However, you are human! Take time to reflect on yesterday, drink some coffee, or let the kids play outside a little longer. Maybe consider setting daily commitments (as mentioned in step 2) for yourself!
If you meet your attainable goal, great! If not, give yourself grace.
The more inner peace that you can feel within yourself and all the roles that you play in your household, the more at peace your children will respond to their new normal.
Best of luck to your family in this new adventure of virtual learning. I believe that this can be a time of positivity, flexibility, compassion, and patients. I assured you that your family will come out of this virtual learning time a stronger, more empathetic, and connected family.
Very Best Wishes,
2nd Grade Public School Teacher
2019 North Carolina’s Beginning Teacher of the Year
My name is Leanne Rose and I am a second-grade teacher at Park View Elementary School in the Mooresville Graded School District!
I am proud to be the inaugural year’s winner of the North Carolina’s Beginning Teacher of the Year! I am a second-year teacher and studied at NC State’s College of Education.
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