Good afternoon. I’d like to welcome everyone for joining us today for this discussion about how teachers can improve their mental health and well-being, or maintain their mental health and well-being as we are adjusting to this online curriculum during the COVID-19 crisis.
First of all, if you take a look below the video, there is a link to MindPathCare.com/telehealth. That is our website where you can go on and set up a Telehealth appointment with one of our many providers and therapists from varied backgrounds and various specialties. You can either set up a new patient appointment, or if you’re a current patient and need to have a follow-up, this is a link you can go to to get you started with that.
Secondly, I’d like to say if you have any questions that you would like for me to address please feel free to go ahead and type them in the comments, not comments, I’m sorry, the chat box at the bottom of the video. That way when I start addressing these questions they’ll already be there, and I can go ahead and have those looked at for you.
If you weren’t here at the last one that I did, let me introduce myself really quickly. My name is Christopher Riggan. I am a psych mental health nurse practitioner here at MindPath Care. I am at the Wake Forest office. I specialize in pediatric adolescents, young adults, ADHD, anxiety, and depression disorders. That is sort of where a majority of my clients come through. I am here today to address an issue that is definitely a priority right now I feel, and that is our teachers. I feel that our teachers are sometimes underappreciated and do not get the value that they should deserve. Especially in this time right now we are experiencing this educational change where they’re no longer doing education in the classroom, they are having to provide this curriculum via the internet and this online education. I feel that, I want teachers to know that you are appreciated and that we do understand that not only are our children going through this, and the parents having to help schooling at home, but teachers are going through this. This is a big change. I’m pretty sure teachers designed their lesson plan for in classroom setting. Here they all are now having totally change that by putting out this information for their kids at home. First of all, that’s what I wanted to say is thank you for what you do and you’re appreciated.
The first thing I would like to address for you is a good way to sort of decrease the stress and the anxiety that you must be feeling with this change and in the way of teaching. Realize that there’s only so much you have control over. There’s only so much you can do. One of the reasons that teachers can be effective in their classroom is because you have control over that environment, and you know you can set the lighting the way you want in class, you can adjust the arrangement of the students in the class to be more effective for the classroom learning, and you can have different visuals, but when the child or the student is learning from home, you don’t really have any control at all over their environment at home. If they’re watching TV, or if they have brothers and sisters who are running around, dogs and cats, any type of environmental distraction like that is going to be out of your control. I want you to realize that it’s not expected of you as a teacher to make sure that every student succeeds, to make sure that every student passes, because that’s out of your control. You can’t do that. What you should strive to do is to make sure that you have provided that opportunity for every child to succeed, and every child to do well in your grade. That’s all you can do. If you’ve provided that opportunity then it’s up to the child, it’s up to that family, especially at a home/in-home situation, to take advantage of that. When you’re looking at it from that point of view, you may have to adjust your style a little bit of how you’re going to present this information. Again, I’m sure most of you are used to the in the classroom curriculum, so what you’re doing is, a lot of the time you’re writing stuff, or if you have stuff on the board for them to see, and then you have questions from the students, and then you respond to those questions and that leads into a new part your lesson for that day, more questions. It may not go that way with online learning because the involvement of the students, it’s going to vary, or you may not even have that actual virtual one-on-one. I know because there’s not a set online curriculum for Wake County, Franklin County, or all those other counties around this area. Each school is doing something different. You have private schools, you have the traditional schools, you have year-round schools, so, because there isn’t any congruency in that lesson plan you’re kind of having to do what you know best and what you think is going to be effective.
The way I think it would be beneficial for you, which can reduce a little bit of your stress and anxiety, is design your lesson plan sort of like you would a PowerPoint presentation, at like a business, or when you were in school. That way you’re making sure that you’re providing all the information that a person would need to follow along with your idea, your thoughts, and your process of how you’re coming to your lesson, and that’s that leading into that thought process, as you are providing that option for a person to do well, to succeed. If you think of your lesson plan that way you’re like “okay, what would a person need since I can’t explain this in person?” “What would they need?” is a good building block to try to understand that, and that’s a good way to kind of structure your lesson plan.
Another thing to take into mind is a lot of parents now are helping with their kids at home. A majority of parents have been out of school for a while, so try to keep that in mind- ask yourself “okay what options could I have for parents to help a parent understand this a little better so they can help their child actually understand it more effectively?” That’s something I feel that some of the curriculum do not involve is that, you know, the parent is helping so if the parent doesn’t understand it, it’s going to be very difficult for them to teach it, or help their child understand. That’s sort of, real quick, an adjustment that you can make in your approach to how you present your lesson, and what information you can provide for students and parents so they can make your lesson more effectively understood.
We’re going to go ahead and take a few questions. We have a question, “I’m really anxious about how my students are doing during this time, especially the kids who I haven’t gotten a response from yet. Some of them come from less than stable homes and I don’t have contact with them right now and that’s very difficult.” That is a great question! Again, that goes back to you having control over your environment when you’re in your classroom. You can see all the students, you can read them, you can tell if one’s feeling sad, and you can tell if one’s really frustrated. Now that you don’t have that opportunity, you’re not able to see the students face to face. You’re not interacting with them every day. I totally understand your concern it’s like “ I haven’t heard from this student all week, you know, not turning in their work,” in that case you have to unfortunately accept that due to some of the students’ situations, they may not be actively participating. I know that that hurts as a teacher because you do want to make that difference in each kid’s life, but right now that’s out of your control. You can’t control that home situation. All you can do is just provide that information. You can email them- email the child. I think that all of the online students, they have like an online email address. Send them an email through the platform and say “Hey, just checking on you, and making sure you’re understanding this okay. Do you have any questions of me?” and that way you’re opening up that communication so that maybe they can respond to you. I see nothing wrong with sending an email to the parents saying “Hey, I’m just checking on my students to make sure everything is going well. Is your child understanding the curriculum? Are they understanding the lessons that I’ve put forth for them to do?” That way at least you’re getting some response. I think that is the least that you can do, because whether or not that child responds to you is out of your hands, but you’re putting out that mode of communication. You’re putting out that street that they can go down, and hopefully they will respond to you. I hope that helps with that.
We have another question here. Next question, “Do you have any recommendations for teachers who are feeling overwhelmed by all the work involved in switching their lessons to online? Some teachers are having a hard time being motivated to do this work, because it is so overwhelming and so much.” Another great question. I could not imagine the anxiety and stress that has come into a teacher’s life here recently, because again, they planned to be in in the classroom, and then all of a sudden within a few weeks having to adjust and put this material online or teach a class online. My suggestion, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, is to take your lesson planning in spurts. If you can provide a lesson plan to where they’re not meeting with you every day and you say, okay on Monday you address them say, “this assignment is due on Friday.” That gives you a little bit of time to where you can prepare you know how you want them to address that that topic or that lesson plan. Some of the schools are meeting every day. I believe a majority of them are not. They’re just meeting, they’re doing the online classroom together like a couple times. Prepare your lessons that way, in chunks. I know you’re used to probably preparing the night before like Sunday. A lot of teachers I’ve heard spent a lot of time, their time, on Sunday preparing their lessons for the week. This gives you a little more opportunity to space that out. The kids aren’t going to be there at 8 o’clock on Monday morning, or 7:30 on Monday morning, so take that time to prepare a lesson you know individually one at a time. That way when it’s presented from you, you feel like it is very clear and understanding, and effectively getting your lesson plan across. Don’t feel like you have to rush in and do it all at once, again because we’re going through this with you. The kids are going through it, the parents are going through it, and we definitely understand if something isn’t presented quickly due to the circumstances. Communication is the key. Let the parents know that “hey, we’re working on this, doing this, and this is the lesson plan for the next couple days,” and definitely let the students know. This is a huge time for students to build communication skills with their teachers. When they get into high school, if they’re not already in high school, communicating with your teacher, of what their expectations are, what your limitations may be, asking for a little bit longer time frame on something, that’s going to be something they have to do. The parents can’t do it anymore. This would be a great opportunity for them to open up those lines of communication with their teachers. I’m sure plenty of teachers would love to actually have that that active involvement with their child. I’ll say that for a teacher to receive an email saying “Hey, I really appreciate what you’re doing. I’m having a little difficulty with this. Is there anything that you can do, that you can provide me as an opportunity to understand this better?” I’m sure you as teachers, I’m sure you guys love that! That shows the kids are actively involved and want to improve. That would be my suggestion with that. Open lines of communication with your students. Let them know what you’re expecting, and this is a time frame. Break up that lesson plan so you’re not trying to do it all at once. Give yourself some time to create a lesson plan. I hope I’m not rushing this, I do apologize.
All right. Next question- “My students need a lot from me right now, but I’m working at a lower emotional capacity. How do I manage this?” Again I couldn’t imagine. I understand you probably have hundreds of students coming at you with thousands of questions, and not only are you a teacher, you’re a mother, you’re a wife. You’re just you, you need to take time for you as well. I told, in the last session I did online, parents need to take time for leisure. You can’t be a parent, work, a spouse 24 hours a day. You got to have that little bit of a break, of leisure, so you can do whatever brings you that happiness, reading, watching your favorite TV show, or something. You have to do that well as a teacher. You have to realize that if things were as they were before COVID-19, that child would only have a certain amount of time to ask a question of you, and that was expected, and kids knew that. That’s how it worked. We need to keep that structure in online studies. We need to keep that structure saying “Okay, I understand everyone has a lot of questions, I’m going to set aside some time, say one to two hours, that I can answer questions live for you guys.” This takes a little pressure off of you where you don’t feel like you have to answer them all at once. You can set aside those times. If the kids show up, if they do, if they don’t, you gave them this opportunity. You’re not going to be able to have every child participate. You’re not going to be able to make every child be successful. All you can do is make sure you have that option supplied. I would suggest if you’re feeling like you’re getting too much information coming at you, too many questions coming at you, you’re going to have to set some structure and the kids will understand that. Especially for the parents, that would be the biggest key. Also if you have a question and answer time for your students, I would suggest to have a separate question and answer time for parents of the students, so that way if you can explain it to the parent more effectively, the parent will be more effectively able to get your lesson over to their child. That would be my suggestion for that, and I hope it works out well for you. If you have already have anxiety, and you feel like that anxiety is increased from this, this would be an opportune time to speak to your provider. Say “Hey, I think this needs to be addressed.” If you don’t have a mental health provider, we’re taking in new patients every day here at MindPath Care. Please call to make an appointment. We will definitely do an evaluation to see what we can do and what we can improve upon on. There are plenty of options, even if you’re looking at just some therapeutic therapy sessions, we have plenty of therapists and providers. They can also provide that, so if you’re feeling stressed make a couple of those adjustments. If those adjustments still are not helping, maybe you can speak to a provider and we can help you in that way. Very good question!
Another question is “It’s so hard not being able to work right now. My stress and anxiety levels are through the roof and I don’t have a good outlet for this energy. I also miss my students.” I totally understand where you’re coming from with that question. I understand to be an effective teacher, you have to have that that rapport with your students, and I’m sure for some students you may be the only positive influence they have which I hate, but that’s the way it is sometimes. You should also take some comfort in knowing that our children, my children, they should not go to school to learn morals and to learn ethics, that should be something that’s taught in the home. Take a little bit of comfort in knowing that that’s not your job. Your job is to provide education for the children. I know you want to help the kids as much as you can, especially those that maybe come from bad situations. You’re just putting a lot of stress on yourself, because no matter what you do in that classroom, it’s not going to change the environment that kid goes home to. If you are worried about your kids, if you miss them, there’s nothing wrong with sending emails without work to your students. You can always just send an email just checking in on them saying “Hey, I know these times are tough for us all and I hope you guys are doing well,” and give them some words of encouragement. A lot of times right now all they hear from their teachers is assignments, assignments, assignments. It’s okay to send an email saying “Hey, I’m just checking in on everyone and seeing how you’re doing,” and open up that line of communication, because we know you may have been that positive influence form, and now they see that you’re reaching out and you may get a response from some of the kids. That may be what you wanted, that may not be. I hope it is what you were looking for. You can check in on them and see how they’re doing. If you’re already dealing with stress and anxiety, this is just compounded upon that. If that stress and anxiety has caused difficulty with you sleeping, feeling on edge, irritability, those are signs of anxiety. That’s some of the descriptors that we look for when we’re trying to address anxiety. If you haven’t been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, it may be presenting itself now. It’s not something that you would have to manage the rest of your life, sometimes it’s just situational. If you can speak with a provider and get it managed temporarily during this time, during this situation, once that situation goes back to a more stable point, you may not have to have the treatment that you were receiving right now. When I talk to my patients about medication or therapy, medication can only help with symptoms. Medication can’t change a surrounding, so if you have increased stressors or increased anxiety due to the surroundings, you can take a medication that can help with those symptoms, but until that surrounding is changed, until that environment is at a more stable place, it would be beneficial for you to continue whatever that treatment plan is until that environment is more stable for you. I’m not saying medication is the answer for everything, sometimes just having someone to talk to, having that outlet there is hugely important. I know some schools have a behavioral, I think it’s behavioral health, for their teachers as well as the students. I think that’s an awesome thing. If you don’t have that option, you can find out here at MindPath Care. We have, like I said, therapists that are taking in new patients and we have providers taking in new patients. There’s things that you can do at home too. I’m not trying to make this a business plug.
This is supposed to definitely be for your benefit, and in providing you with ideas and information that you can do to make your daily life more effective. Adequate sleep is number one. You have to get adequate sleep. If you don’t get good sleep, hygiene, you can feel tired in the morning. If you feel tired during the day, you’re going to be irritable. Your anxiety is going to increase. Maintain good sleep routine. Set those boundaries to where “Okay, I’m going to stop working on my lesson plan and I’m going to go to bed now.” Diet is very important. I know in these times right now it’s hard to get out and get the quality of food that you may have been getting before. A lot of times we’re being cooped up in the house, and you see those foods that may not be as healthy for you there just staring at you in the face. A lot of our diets have changed during the COVID-19 crisis. Getting back into a better diet and more healthy diet can also improve your mood and also improve your energy. The biggest thing is communication. My last video I mentioned here at MindPath, we’re trying to revamp the whole social distancing thing to think of it more as physical distancing. You need that social interaction with your colleagues. That’s the one thing teachers miss is not only the interaction with their students, but the interaction with their colleagues. This is a great time to catch up. Send a message to your colleagues. Ask how they’re doing; ask how they’re doing their online curriculum. This is a great way to come together as a team and say “Okay, what if we all decide to do the curriculum the same?” and then that way everyone will be on the same page and it’ll be easier for the kids to take in the information.
This is definitely a stressful time and an unprecedented time, but I think we’re starting to lose sight that we still need communication, we still need interaction with people. Reach out to your colleagues. I hope your administration is helpful and beneficial for you. Reach out to family and friends. Let them know you that you’re thinking about them and the stressors you’re going through. Definitely speak to your teacher colleagues. Hopefully you guys can offer advice and ways that you have found something that’s been beneficial, and that can lead into your improving your effectiveness. I believe that was all the questions for right now.
I have enjoyed speaking with you guys, and I hope that has been beneficial. Again, I want to say thank you very much for the job you guys are doing. I couldn’t imagine the stress you’re under, but it does not go unnoticed. As a parent myself, I do appreciate the lesson plans that my two children are receiving, and I appreciate the outlets of communication they have with their teachers and the faculty at their school. I think it’s a huge plus for them, and my kids have definitely noticed a sigh of relief, I guess, knowing that they can contact their teachers. Again, thank you for what you do. I hope this is just a temporary thing and I’m hoping in the fall you guys can get back to business as normal, but if you need anything at all please reach out to us. Go to our website below the video MindPathCare.com/telehealth. You can set up appointment if you want to speak with someone, reach out to your friends and your family. If you have any questions you can jot them down and I’m hopefully going to do another one of these videos, but if not, you know you could reach me here the office. Call the office and tell me other questions for me and I’ll try to answer it over the phone. It’s a pleasure doing this. I hope it’s beneficial for you guys and I wish you guys the best. I hope the rest of this year goes well for you guys. Stay safe, stay progressing, and I’ll see you next time!