The results of a recent survey on parents reveal the shocking current mental state of their school-aged children: nearly 3 in 10 (29%) of parents say their child is “already experiencing harm to emotional or mental health” due to social isolation and school closures. Another survey revealed that up to a staggering 80% of learners have experienced some negative impact to their mental wellbeing due to the pandemic.
Without a doubt, Covid-19 has wreaked havoc in more areas than just in the economic sphere. As the pandemic continues towards its two-year anniversary, UNICEF has shared the latest available data on the pandemic’s impact on children’s learning, stating that more than 616 million learners still remain affected by full or partial school closures.
Faced with these staggering numbers, it is now more imperative than ever for schools to initiate steps to improve their learners’ mental wellbeing during these unprecedented times.
Here are 4 things you can do to help your learners stay mentally afloat during this challenging period:
1. Check In So They Don’t Check Out
Identifying changes in behavior can be easy when one is in a classroom setting; however, in a virtual environment, it is definitely more difficult for educators to spot symptoms of mental stress in their learners, especially when they are unable to see their learners’ body language through the screen.
The BeED platform circumvents this in several ways:
Emotional Prompt Blocks
BeED’s customizable lesson builder allows educators to do mental health check-ins by incorporating “prompt” blocks at regular intervals throughout a lesson or even a course. Educators can provide a “Mood Survey’ to gauge their learners’ emotions at that particular moment, or even ask open-ended questions such as: “How have you been feeling lately?” or “What are some things that are currently worrying you?”
These blocks enable educators to stay updated on their learners’ well-being at any time during and beyond the lesson. Shyer learners may even be more inclined to truthfully respond about their feelings through this manner, as it promises a private and direct interaction with the educator instead of in front of the entire class. Educators can also respond privately to their learners’ concerns, further providing much-needed support for those who need it.
Daily Mood Journaling
To track learners’ changes in mood over time, educators can also use the BeED Lesson Builder to create a “Mental Wellness Diary”. Learners are encouraged to do daily check-ins and reflections, which are shared directly with their educators. The latter will then have the ability to see if there are any drastic or negative changes to their learners’ moods over time, and to take necessary action if needed.
Virtual Social Spaces
Being in lockdown doesn’t necessarily mean having to completely self-isolate. Through BeED’s integrated conference blocks, educators can create online video or even audio study rooms for their learners to meet and socialize with each other. As these rooms can be assigned to specific classes/learners as well as recorded for security purposes, cyberbullying or hacking can be mitigated to ensure a safe virtual space for everyone.
Another excellent way to help learners handle self-isolation is to pair them up with a peer from class. Through BeED Connect, educators can create private forums and pair up learners for them to regularly check in on each other to discuss various challenges and provide peer support for one another.
Direct Access to Mentor Support
Often, learners are unaware of who or where to turn to when they are facing difficulties at home or at school. By providing them with easy access to mentors at school, institutions can greatly encourage their learners to reach out and seek counseling whenever they need.
BeED’s Lesson Builder allows institutions to provide learners with quick access to guidance counselors by integrating their contact information, availability as well as Private Messaging details for learners to directly communicate with.
2. Build Resilience
As educators, it is important to always remember that education is more than just exams and grades. Education, as a whole, needs to be holistic and targeted towards developing learners’ skills and characteristics to prepare them for real-world challenges.
Thus, all educators, no matter what subject they teach, should regularly embed opportunities for learners to practice and master developmental coping strategies in their lessons. For example, after an assessment or a challenging task, educators should host a discussion session to examine their learners’ responses to failure or success. These sessions can continue even if the learners are at home, as the BeED platform fosters collaboration and communication through features such as the Forum, Private Messaging and two-way interaction through rich media such as video and audio.
During this time, teach them mindful meditation techniques, or other reflective activities to help them analyze their emotions and learn how to cope with them. These sessions will go a long way in helping learners develop vital lifelong skills such as resilience and reflective thought processes. As they continue to improve on their skills and traits, educators can track their holistic progress against general skills and traits markers created through the BeED Rubrics Builder.
3. Stay Active to Boost Mental Health
Without a doubt, many learners would claim that their biggest challenge during the pandemic has been to persevere through staying at home and online learning for prolonged periods of time.
As they are required to sit in front of a screen and be sedentary for most of the day, many find it difficult to have enough time and motivation to remain physically active. This is where the full potential of the BeED platform comes into play; designed specifically for a “mobile-first” approach, BeED promotes experiential learning that encourages learners to physically explore the world around them in their daily lessons. For example, instead of conducting a science lesson through an online lecture, educators can now incorporate tasks that allow learners to move around their actual surroundings and apply practical concepts to their real world, even if it’s just in a home environment.
Daily physical activities like “Follow the Teacher” or “Happy Morning Dance Offs” can also be done through BeED’s integrated virtual conference blocks, where learner participation is recorded for educators to review and monitor. BeED’s Timed Lesson feature further allows educators the flexibility to host fun and interactive competitions such as a Treasure Hunt for learners to move around and explore their own homes.
4. Consistency is Key
Your energy as an educator will always play a big role in your learners’ success; so even if it is difficult at first to adjust to the new normal, try to remain positive throughout so that you can continue motivating yourself, as well as your learners.
Most importantly, remember to be consistent with the entire teaching and learning process. Change can be overwhelming for learners, especially for younger ones. Thus, to minimize as much disruptive change as possible during these tumultuous times, use the same platform to not only help your learners stay mentally afloat, but to participate in daily lessons as well for consistency and continuity. BeED thus serves as an all-inclusive platform for education, as it can not only be used as an avenue for mental health support, but as a full-fledged teaching and learning platform as well that brings the entire learning community together.
Educators can thus play a key role in helping their learners manage emotional distress during these challenging times with the following key takeaways.
Ultimately, schools should be proactive rather than reactive when addressing their learners’ mental wellbeing. It is now more imperative than ever for all of us to implement the right learning and coping strategies to bring about positive change in our children’s mental wellbeing.