Damien Sweeney

Damien Sweeney

A Fleming County student recently wrote a column for Kentucky Teacher saying how she felt mad, devastated, robbed and sad after she learned how much her senior year was going to be disrupted due to COVID-19. She is an incredible student and she is not alone in feeling that way during this time.

COVID-19 is a global crisis. Any crisis can provoke the feelings this student mentioned and many others. All of us have experienced a variety of emotions during this time. To add to Sarah’s list of emotions, others may be experiencing loneliness, fear and anxiety. These feelings may continue for quite some time.

Staying Connected

The most important thing students can do during a stressful time like this is stay connected. I love that Sarah said, “Though I haven’t been able to see my friends in person, I have talked to them every day by texting, Snapchatting, FaceTiming, and Zooming. I’ve Zoomed with my student council group almost every day, and we have continued to boost morale by hosting virtual spirit days, recognizing other students and encouraging each other. It’s been nice to see their faces. Our staff is doing a phenomenal job by checking in on us daily. I have felt the love and support throughout my entire community.”

Staying connected to friends, family, educators and classmates is extremely important during this unprecedented time. We have to look out for one another and check in to ensure the safety and well-being of others. For ways to stay connected, check out these ideas from Seize the Awkward.

Educators should do the same thing! Can you connect with other teachers in your building? Are you staying connected with your own friends and family and being honest about what you are feeling and going through?

Know You Have Strength Within You
For our students, take a look at these 24 Character Strengths from the VIA Institute on Character. What are your character strengths? How do you know? How are you using those strengths to uplift others during this time?

It is easy to get down on yourself if you are an educator during this time. Because of this, I want to reassure you that you are doing a great job! Check out this checklist from the Search Institute. What are you already doing from this list? What else can you do to connect with your students?

Establish Healthy Routines
Creating a routine during this time is going to be helpful for students. It may be tempting to wake up late each morning and turn on Netflix, but you will feel more productive and accomplished if you set your alarm, wake up at a reasonable time, have a set schedule for things you’d like to achieve for the day and stick to it.

Of course, this is also a great time to work toward your skills as an educator. How can you create more engagement with students next year? How will you address their academic and social/emotional needs? How will you motivate disengaged students?

Take this Time to Learn Something New
Sarah mentioned that she’s learning new things. She’s now doing yoga and exercising daily. Can you do the same? Have you always wanted to learn the guitar, or how to be a better chef or even a new language? Now’s the time. Take a look at this article,Learn Something New: 101 New Skills to Learn Starting Today” from developnewhabits.com. Taking the time to learn something new can be beneficial to students and educators.

It is OK to Not to be OK
Whether you are a teacher or a student, there are going to be days where you just can’t find the energy to be your best self. You may be tired and you may just need periods of rest or relaxation. Remember, that this is a unique time and you are displaying normal feelings to this abnormal situation.

Check in with yourself and honor your own response to this time. Self-care and self-compassion are ever-so-important right now and we want you to be at your best when you can be. It may take you some time to get there, but you can and will if you are easy with yourself.

We all experience sadness at times. After all, there are things we looked forward to that will not happen because of the pandemic. It is natural to go through a grieving process (like Sarah) when you feel “robbed” of some of these experiences. Sadness is an inconsistent feeling that you shouldn’t feel every single day, all the time. If you are constantly feeling sad, you may be experiencing depression and need to see your doctor about these feelings.

If you are concerned about someone you know hurting themselves or someone else, please refer them to the following resources:

  • National Crisis Line: (800) 273-8255
  • National Crisis Text Line: Text Home to 741741

Read More …

And then suddenly … everything changed due to COVID-19

Damien Sweeney is program coordinator for comprehensive school counseling in the Kentucky Department of Education’s Office of Teaching and Learning.