I am not sure how e-learning has been going for you or what your teaching situation looks like today, but I think we can all agree that this past year has been tough. Between learning how to teach online or not at all, I know that your teacher’s heart wants to connect with your students more, but you can’t do it all. The pandemic has affected us all in different ways, and unfortunately it is not over yet. Students have been struggling with mental health more than ever during this time.  God’s heart is for us to be connecting and leaning on one another in tough times, but the pandemic has made that much more difficult and less organic. Behind screens, it is difficult to really know how our students are doing – academically, emotionally, and spiritually.
We cannot control this pandemic or our students’ home environments, but I hope to encourage you to do some simple things to help connect with your students during this time.
Academically checking in:
- Give students opportunities to privately share how they are struggling and in need of more support. Often students with learning difficulties can have less confidence to want to answer an open-ended question like “Does anyone have any questions?” Consider having an alternate chat, email, or number where they can contact you with questions that come up, without the need to draw attention to it in front of the whole class.
- At the beginning of the class, check in to see what students need by asking them a multiple-choice question. For example: A. Do they need more review time alone? B. Are they ready for the quiz? C. Do they need more assistance from the teacher?
- After the lesson, have students complete a google form with reflection questions to see what they retained from the lesson.
- Try changing up your language from “Do you have any questions?” to “Write down 1 question that you have.” This takes away the shame of having a question at all!
Mental/Emotionally checking in:
- Assign colors to different feelings. Have students pick a color to describe their feelings before the lesson begins (check zones of regulation).
- Have students privately answer these questions on a notecard or private message:
- What are you doing to take care of your mental health?
- What is making you feel stressed?
- What is making you feel happy?
- Have a “mental health check in” board. Follow up or refer some students to a counselor or social worker. Teacherspayteachers.com has mental health check-in forms already created as Google forms or worksheets.
Spiritually checking in:
- If your school allows, check in with students spiritually as well. Take a moment at the beginning of your lessons to remind them that the God of the universe loves them and understands that this is a challenging time. Remind them that God is always with them and wants to hear from them. Share scripture, and encourage students to pray and speak with trusted adults about what they may be struggling with.
Depending on your staff, please seek more counsel from professionals at your school regarding this topic. We all desire connection, and to just know people love and care for us can make a world of difference. Connecting with our students through a check-in is one way to show them the love and care they need.
Special Education Consultant
 Richards, Erin. “Kids’ Mental Health Can Struggle during Online School. Here’s How Teachers Are Planning Ahead.” USA Today, 2 Aug. 2020, www.usatoday.com/story/news/education/2020/07/31/covid-online-school-kids-mental-health-teachers/5529846002/.
 “Learn More about the Zones.” The Zones of Regulation, www.zonesofregulation.com/learn-more-about-the-zones.html.
Photo Credits: Digital Connection via Shutterstock. Online Learning via Shutterstock. Mental Health Check-in. Erin Castillo via Instagram/makingastatementinsped.