In the U.S., most states have already called it: school will be only online and distance ed for the rest of this school year.
For many students, this is difficult.
Actually, if we’re being accurate and transparent, it’s traumatizing.
It is necessary, it is important, but there is a lot of trauma for all of us.
For high school seniors, it’s downright tragic. They are missing all the “final” things they’d hoped to get the chance to do as they wrap up their childhoods and this stage of their educational careers, and say goodbye to their homes and lives up to this point.
So, yes. This is really difficult for everyone, but educators worldwide are talking about ways to combat the lack of emotional closure students will have in many places. Here are a few of their ideas to help all of our children as they make the transition from one school year to the next, no matter what that will look like for them.
Provide an Anchor
Students need a familiar place to which they can return. Some schools are making that happen by having everyone return to their former classrooms next fall, or whenever face-to-face learning begins again. Even if it’s just for a day, or a week, creating time and space to say goodbye and create a sense of ending for students and educators is really important.
Some may not be able to physically make that happen, though. If possible, take any pictures of your classroom that you have and share a physical copy with students. Share any group shots you have of the students in the classroom, or any photos of individuals can be shared specifically with that family.
Students need tangible proof that this year happened. They need to be able to solidify their loss in some tangible way in order to move forward.
Another way to do this is by sending letters to individual students. Younger students love to hear you reminisce about funny things that happened while you were together, or cute stories of things that happened in class. Sometimes, your first impressions of each other are nice to share - especially if one of you was WAY off on your impressions. For example, have you ever met a student and thought they were incredibly shy, then learned that they were the life of the classroom after they warmed up? That’s always a funny thing to reminisce about.
You may not physically be able to allow them to return but giving them something that validates their experiences as well as their loss and provides them with a way to look back and appreciate your time together will be very helpful.
If you have students that will be leaving your campus next year for a higher grade, approach members of your district and ask them to make videos of their new prospective schools. The end of the year is generally a time when students tour the next campus they’ll be attending, and without that, many students may be really nervous to make the switch.
Introducing them to teachers or administrators from their new school during a class call, or showing a video of their new campus and talking about different aspects of their new prospective physical space may help ease their transition.
Be vocal about what your students this year are going to need to be able to transition next year. Many administrators are doing all they can, but unless they have teachers to remind them of the particular needs, things like this could easily slip through the cracks.
Ask Students About Their Goodbye StoriesYou can learn a lot about how your students have successfully grieved in the past and created closure if you ask them about their stories of loss and saying goodbye. They may be able to give you some great insight and ideas as to how you can all say goodbye in meaningful ways.
Consider allowing students to paint or decorate rocks or sticks and leave them outside the school as a sort of “memorial” to the year.
Ask parents to send in pictures and make a slideshow to share.
Do a parade and drive by the homes of students, or have them drive by your home, if you are feeling brave!
Take sidewalk chalk and write messages to them on their porches, stoops, or sidewalks.
Give them a way to memorialize, remember, laugh, cry, and say goodbye.
And remember that you need that closure, too. Give yourself a way to mark this year with all its good and bad, and say goodbye.