Webinar Recap for “How Teachers Can Conquer Emotional Challenges During COVID-19 and Beyond”

Thank you to our panelist for blessing us with this webinar:

Arne Nielsen, VP for NAD Education
Evelyn Sullivan, NAD Early Childhood, REACH
Paola Oudri, ALC Educational PD Coordinator
Alina Baltazar, AU Institute for the Prevention of Addiction
Charity Garcia, AU Dept. Teaching, Learning, Curriculum
Ingrid Slikkers, AU International Center for Trauma Education & Care Director

Thank you to those who assisted to make this webinar successful:

Martha Ban, NAD Director of Technology for Education
Katelyn Campbell, Andrews University
Desmond Suarez II, Richmond Academy

Recording of the webinar:

Conquering Emotional Challenges During Covid Times from Adventist Education.

Slideshow that was shown during the webinar:

Questions & Answers:

The following are questions that were asked during the webinar. Some were answered during the live webinar and others have been answered here afterwards.

Q:  Why do I feel so emotionally exhausted after a day of zoom sessions?

A:  Great question! Our brains are having to work harder than they normally would have to in a regular class. We are used to picking up cues from those we are working with or talking to from body language and even just being able to hear them better. It takes additional energy and attention to digitally pay the same level of attention to someone. Having to do this hours on end is naturally exhausting. Breaks to stand, stretch, look away from the screen, step outside and get some fresh air, and (where possible) engage with someone physically with you are some quick ways to refresh our brains.

Q:  We need some ideas in my school on how to reassure both parents and teachers that it will be safe to come back to school for the next school year.

A: Your local public health department can help you set up a plan that is based on research.  Also continue to connect with your local conference and union offices; while staying connected with your school families by updating them regularly of any new developments. 

Q:  The top emotional challenge for many of the teachers at my school is that we’re struggling to get parents to support and buy into the importance of actually doing some school at home. I have one student who I haven’t heard from since our last day of live class 7 weeks ago. I can’t get ahold of the family no matter what method I try, so that worries me and I’m trying to figure out whether I need to make a CPS call just for a wellness check or whether that could backfire. We have several students who have dropped off our radar and we worry about them constantly. Any suggestions for how we as teachers can best survive these emotional challenges?

A: State and local expectations around student contact with schools is diverse around the nation. If there was an earlier concern with the safety and care of the child than contacting Child Protective Services would be an appropriate next step. However, if there were no earlier concerns but the lack of contact in recent weeks has school employees concerned then the local police department is available to conduct a “wellness check”. There could be alternative explanations than a student’s lack of safety for the lack of contact (i.e. lack of technology, family illness/death, economic factors, or a sudden relocation, etc.)

Administrators encourage teachers to engage in regular self-care and to be assured that they have done & documented their due diligence to focus their efforts on the students that they do have contact with, while circling back with attempts to contact the families. 

Q: What is the best way to deal with a teenage student who is dealing with depression, and is also home now with a parent (used to be in the dorm sheltered from home environment) who also struggles with depression?

A: Encourage self-care, such as the recommendations mentioned in this webinar. Relational connection is very important, even if it all has to happen digitally. Supporting opportunities for connection, such as in a video-conference class or encouraging out of the classroom engagement, is of great value. Even just taking some time in class for students to be able to talk casually with one another can be helpful. External therapeutic resources, such as teletherapy or hotline numbers, may also be helpful to share with all students & their families.

Q:  What are some reasonable expectations of our scholars?  Some of them are dealing with death, changes, and insecurity at home

A:  Expectations during this time need to be adjusted, and may need to be constantly reassessed. You should be realistic about your expectations.  What absolutely needs to be done in order to meet your objectives for the year or the course?  These are not normal times.  If there are legitimate issues that are interfering with a student being able to get work in on time, work with them like you would if they were having these issues while coming to school.  Allow for alternative deadlines and ways of submission of assignments as needed. 

Q: Why is listening to this webinar making this whole situation more real and hard to deal with?  Why was I able to zoom all day with no overwhelming emotion,  now at this moment I sit and listen and cry.

A:  Thank you for personally taking the time to join today. Educators are on the front lines, having to hold everything together for their students. Pausing to take the time to acknowledge the gravity of the situation can feel overwhelming. Still, for your health, it is good to take this time to feel what you’re feeling. Those emotions have likely been there all along, your body is trying to tell you something.  It is okay to feel overwhelmed.  Look into implementing some of the tips that were shared during the webinar/recording to take better care of yourself.  

Q:  Is there something I can do to help me sleep and not struggle with nightmares? My brain won’t shut off… constantly worried about my students, teaching, being there for everyone…

A: This experience is normal. Self-care strategies are your best friend to help relax the brain and reduce cortisol. Deep breathing can be very helpful. Also progressive muscle relaxation (tensing muscle groups for 15-20 seconds at a time, then relaxing them). Exercise, go outside and get fresh air. Make sure you have some people you can talk to and seek for support. This may include calling a mental health hotline or reaching out to your doctor.

Q:  If our students and parents are suffering through the same amount of stress and trauma, are we by adding school work to their load making it worse?

A:  School work adds continuity, predictability, and can be a good distraction. It also keeps the students working towards their educational goals.  School work helps to keep life more normal and maintains a connection to school.  Just be realistic about your expectations.  Listen to what the parents and your students are saying about the assignments and be open to making as many accommodations as possible. They’ll let you know if it isn’t working.

Q:  Our most potentially vulnerable population of teachers are those with their own school age children that are home with them.  What suggestions would you have for those teachers

A:  Like mentioned in the webinar/recording, you have to adjust your expectations.  You won’t be able to put in the same amount of work hours.  You are going to need help from another adult or older child so you can concentrate on your work when you need to.  Unfortunately, you may not be the best teacher or parent during these times. That is okay.  Focus on what is most important and be okay with that.  

Q: The hardest thing is getting parents to get kids to me.  I’m zooming with kids from 7am till 9pm. I know I shouldn’t do that but otherwise I literally don’t see kids.

A: It is definitely a difficult position to be in. When ever you can, do take some intentional time for yourself: you need a break. You can “take breaks” with your students too, if you need to: practice deep breathing together, take some time to share positive things with one another, practice relaxing your body together. Maybe schedule certain times of day that you are “available” that parents can work around.  Some early and some late times or blocks.

If you are teaching and meeting with students from dawn to dusk, your candle will blow out quickly and you will not be able to meet students’ needs. Pace yourself! You won’t be any good for your students in the long run if you exhaust yourself! Make up a schedule and send it to your parents. If you need to meet with some students in the evening, then be certain you schedule time for renewal for yourself at some point during the day!

Q:  How long should a 3rd or 4th Grader be on Zoom for classes per day?

A:There is a wide range of opinions on the appropriate length of time for students (depending on age) to be on Zoom each day. We recommend you contact your conference leaders.

Q:  What is “pizza breathing”?

A: Imagine holding a slice of pizza fresh from the oven. You “smell” in the pizza through your nose, breathing in deeply. Then you “cool down” the pizza by breathing on it through your mouth. This is a great tool for working with kids to help them visualize the experience of deep breathing, which has been shown to significantly relax the brain and body. The idea is to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.  

Q:  How do you feel about Distant Learning for children in Daycares ages 2-5?

A: When distance learning is being used, it should be in as an age-appropriate and interactive & relational manner as possible.

Q:  With so many schools on Zoom or other video classrooms, will this be a new possible hybrid for classroom with distance learning in the future?  For schools that are already doing this, what have they learned?

A: School leaders are exploring multiple options for how schools will continue forward in the future. Please feel free to reach out with your ideas and thoughtful contributions to your school leaders.\

Q:  I get so stressed, angry, and sad so quickly. What can I do to help push through and even help stay away from these responses?

A:  In times of high stress, these emotional reactions are completely normal. Preventative care is helpful: take time each day to engage in self-care. Creating a “safety plan” can be helpful: a list of 4-5 activities you can do which are helpful to you in coming back to a desired emotional space (deep breathing, listening to music, etc.). Practice becoming aware of indicators that your stress is rising and engage with these activities. Make sure to reach out to professional help if these emotions overwhelm your capacity to cope. Remember “to name it is to tame it”!. 

Q:  What are the symptoms of depression?

A:  According to the Mayo Clinic website:

  • Although depression may occur only once during your life, people typically have multiple episodes.  During an episode of depression, the following symptoms occur most of the day, nearly every day and may include:
  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
  • Sleep disturbances, including difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take effort
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain and headaches

The symptoms for children and teens and older adults are a little different.  See the Mayo Clinic for more information 

If you are concerned about these symptoms, don’t hesitate to call your medical doctor for suggestions on a counseling center or call one that you know to make an appointment.  Counseling centers are open for teletherapy.  Consider taking an anti-depressant if the symptoms are moderate to severe and you are having difficulties functioning.  

If the symptoms are mild, the techniques we shared should help relieve most of them.  

If you are having thoughts of wanting to kill yourself.  Call the hotline mentioned earlier 10800-985-5990 or text 66746 or 911.  You can also go to your emergency room to be seen by the psychiatrist on-call.  

Q:  How do you choose which balls are rubber? With how overwhelming this is, all the balls look fragile and important. Especially when it comes to dealing with children (multi- grade teacher and parenting my own elementary aged kids)

A: We are indeed juggling so much. At times like this it can be difficult to figure which of the balls we are juggling are “rubber” and will bounce back and which are “crystal” and need more protection. When considering this, make sure to keep relationships as “crystal” and prioritize connection with your family and your students before academic priorities. 

Q:  Is that 1-800 hotline available in Canada? Can that be shared with my staff/parents/students? 

A:  Here is the number for Crisis Services Canada: 1-833-456-4566  Text is 45645 

Q:  How effective it is to shift from one program to another? Is it not stressful for teachers?

A: Change, particularly during times of crisis, is very difficult. Make sure to extend compassion to yourself, your colleagues & school leaders, and to your students as we work together to manage teaching and learning during this time.

Q:  Are there counselors that you could recommend for teachers during this time?

A: Contact your health insurance provider (the number should be the back of the card) to provide you a list of mental health professionals in your area that will be covered by your insurance. They are required to keep your contact with them as confidential. You may also check the NAD Family Ministries list of counselors, searchable by zipcode at: https://www.nadfamily.org/resources/counselors/

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