• Erin Dickson

Bouncing Back to School after COVID: 3 Steps to Help Students Harness their Positive Energy

We had heard about the “Coronavirus”, kids were making jokes about it, it was on the news...but it wasn’t here. It didn’t affect our small rural state. Until it did.

I remember walking down the hall, finishing up my tasks for that afternoon and glancing into our school’s main patio. The feelings that bubbled up were unexpected and overwhelming. Small children were standing in line with their parents to collect their belongings.

How would parents, who already struggle to balance their family and work lives now, learn to deal with the collision of both worlds so suddenly?

How would teachers, accustomed to creating engaging, hands-on projects now enter this uncharted territory to deliver effective digital lessons to their students?

And the kids, we always say how resilient they are, but they too were in uncharted territory with the rest of us, like the blind leading the blind. Their social development would come to a complete halt, they had no idea what was to come. None of us did really.

Now we’re coming into more uncharted territory...the return to school? Or are we? The difference between students and adults is that we’ve had more time to experience hardships, ups and downs and develop skills to become stronger. Many of us have accepted that there are simply some things that are beyond our control, but we’ve learned to control the controllables, change the changeables. Most elementary school-aged children are not quite there yet.

As school counselors and educators, how do we help them bounce back and prepare for the possibility that this isn’t over? How do we harness their energy into something positive and exciting? How do we teach them to live every day in the present moment, rather than in fear of what might or might not happen?

1. The first step is to acknowledge that all of us have had many feelings throughout this process that were unexpected. Some possibly felt excited to be home, some felt guilty for enjoying a much-needed break from school and work, some likely felt lonely and scared...and those feelings are from some of the adults I know!

Let’s be real with the students and while we’re helping them process their own feelings, acknowledge that we had some of those feelings too! Allow them to identify and process those feelings without judgement. Click here to access “After COVID: Helping Students Harness their Positive Energy”.

2. Next, as humans (both adults and children), we tend to naturally focus on the negative, it’s an unfortunate part of being human, but once we’re aware, we have the power to change it! Overwhelming research has shown that 80% of our thoughts are negative, 80%! How researchers determine that statistic, I have no idea...but really, it’s no wonder many of us wander around in a bundle of nerves, our thoughts are dictating our reality! When I was young, I really didn’t know any different way to think, but now I do. Let’s start them young and shift this for the students so they can change this statistic. The how is actually quite simple if we teach them to be consistent.

This brings us to the second step of the bouncing back process, which is to teach them to engage in daily gratitude practice. Gratitude is a POWERFUL process that when integrated into a daily routine can produce amazing results such as reduced stress, increased happiness and an overall life satisfaction.

There are so many ways we can do this, right in the classroom or at home! Check out “After COVID: Helping Students Harness their Positive Energy” for the Google Slides lessons.

What better way to jump back into the school year with some fun activities such as creating gratitude stones, taking gratitude walks or creating a gratitude jar or calendar? Practicing gratitude WILL increase the positive energy in your classroom and give students a bit of power. You see when kids believe they can’t change their reality, they can’t. Better yet, when they believe they can change their reality, they can.

3. Finally, while we can’t control the uncontrollables or change the unchangeables, we DO have the power to create SOME change. Like adults, kids just want to feel secure that some things are within their control. Let’s teach them how to do that. It wouldn’t hurt if we practiced these concepts a bit too! One of my close friends frequently says, “here, take my advice, I’m not using it.” It makes me laugh every time but how true. The more consistent we are with teaching these strategies to others, the more frequently we’ll use them ourselves.

To teach them this, I have a few different ideas! First help them identify those things that they wish they could change. Sometimes they just need the opportunity to say it out loud. Next, explore those things that they have control over. What action CAN they take to feel more calm and content? You can find the lessons here on my Teachers Pay Teachers website.

This final step incorporates discussion, movement, and mindfulness activities to help students stay in the moment and focus on what makes them feel good, rather than worry about what could happen (or the uncontrollables).

The most important thing that I would LOVE for you to take away from this is that this is not a “one and done” type activity. If these three steps are used on a daily or even weekly basis, you can teach your students to create a lifestyle change and new way of thinking. Let’s help them harness their energy in a positive way!