As educators are wondering what the 2020-2021 school year might entail, our students will, inevitably, be going back to their schools and experiencing some rapid, sweeping changes in some shape or form. They might be seeing smaller groups of students in their school at one time, masks affixed to the faces that provided comfort to them in the past, and an environment that feels strange and weird to them even though it is still familiar ground in some way. Students could also feel incredible anxiety while simultaneously feeling a number of emotions--even around the people they (once) knew and loved. Be on the lookout for students who might feel:
Overwhelmed: Your students could react to any new situation in a number of ways. They might act out in some way, become emotional, revert to isolation, or become clingy to you. Be on the lookout for students who might be overwhelmed by even a simple scheduling change that contradicts how they have operated at home for such a long time during our health crisis.
Awkward: Those who were typically extroverted may resort to introverted behaviors and vice versa. Be on the lookout for helping your students get back into the swing of things even though their environment and surroundings have drastically changed.
Empty: Your students may find that they don’t have much to talk about with their peers upon reuniting with them in person. After the initial discussions about COVID-19 wear off or get old, your students will be missing their day to day “watercooler” discussions. Old friends might not be friends any longer. Students may have been isolated from even their closest friends. We cannot assume that social media kept them close at all times during our crisis. Be on the lookout for helping them to feel comfortable again with their peers.
Embarrassed: You might not know it at first or may never know it if students do not tell you, but they may have had or know someone who had COVID-19—whether it be a family member or friend. Embarrassment could be an underlying feeling to be on the lookout for as you keep them strong during times of hesitance, weakness, or embarrassment. They might not want to talk with you, at first, so tread slowly.
Hesitant: Your students might be gun shy in taking any risks or starting anything new. Give it time. Everything might feel new to them as if they were students who haven’t been in a school for a long period of time, well, because they haven’t. Be on the lookout for hesitant students and don't feel the need to rush them.
Anxious: Overall anxiety could pervade with or without any of these feelings or emotions. What all students will want is the same warmth and kindness that they received from you before resorting to their homes for such a long time.
Your caring attitude can help students with any of these feelings. But, don’t discount the fact that you might be feeling any of these things, yourself, too. We are all here for each other; this is what binds the human race together.
Your students need you and each other (whether they admit it or not) and our own reasons for wanting to be in education is because we need our students too. They make us feel terrific. We celebrate victories with them and help their hurt and pain during terrible times. We have all missed so much during this COVID-19 curse: the smiles, the supportive conversations, the way we were with others, and the way that we are dying to get back to a life where our personalities can flow like never before. Just be on the lookout and give it some time.