The COVID-19 pandemic has brought more than its share of challenges, to be sure. Even with all the changes forced upon businesses and the economic impact, few would argue that the greatest disruption has come in education. Parents and teachers alike continue to grapple with student well-being at any given time: in-person learning, remote learning or a combination of the two, and plans continue to change from week to week in many places.
There’s no single correct answer to what’s best for the well-being of our students, of course, and the physical presence of students will vary from place to place as guidelines are adjusted to the current situation. But there are some common threads that educators can turn to in order to help ensure student well-being to the greatest degree possible.
Ask. To get where you want to go, you need to know where you’re starting, and regularly checking in with students can help here. A few simple questions, ranging from “How are you feeling today?” to “How included did you feel in class today?” to “What made it harder to learn today?” can assist you in understanding your students’ emotional well-being and making sure you’re addressing the proper issues for them at any given time.
Be flexible. In the pre-COVID era we wrote repeatedly about the benefits of flexible education spaces. The challenges of the past two years have made flexibility even more desirable. Adaptable settings can help with physical distancing, accommodate hybrid situations where some students are joining remotely while others are in person, and – just as before the pandemic – encourage much greater engagement. Further, a flexible space can adapt to whatever the future might bring.
Move. Another thing that hasn’t changed is this: movement helps with learning, and with mental and physical development. To the greatest degree possible in an in-person setting, regular periods of movement should be scheduled. And for students learning from home, regular breaks (with encouragement to move around) will help with focus when they’re back in front of the webcam.
The irregular schedules brought about by the pandemic, and the need to sometimes re-teach forgotten material, leave our students at risk of falling behind. There’s no magic wand to fix the situation, but making sure students are emotionally ready to learn, and giving them appropriate spaces and time for movement, can go a long way.
Check out some of our classrooms that feature movement for student well-being here.