You sit at a table with your colleagues after school and review the data, identifying what type of interventions the students in your group need. You identify the types of support they need, how that support will be administered, and think about how to provide enrichment, too. A plan in place and your goals set, you high five your fellow teachers in excitement.
At least, that’s the way it was. Now your high fives might be through the webcam on your laptop or your phone’s front-facing camera during a Zoom meeting. Right now, probably just about everything you were used to as a teacher has changed. Schools have closed and most districts are scrambling to figure out how to do remote learning, as well as provide meals and other services for their students, because one thing certainly hasn’t changed – how much teachers care about their students. Students’ need for intervention certainly hasn’t changed either. In fact, now more than ever students need support. But the type of support and how it is provided has shifted.
In many schools, intervention may be focused on the kids who are struggling academically, emotionally, etc. the most. Now, it’s probably safe to assume that all students are struggling with a whole new set of challenges. The type of intervention, and how you provide it isn’t going to look the way it did before. Academics are no longer the primary focus of what students need. Meeting their social-emotional needs will have to take priority. And really, this only makes sense. Stressed and anxious kids are going to struggle to focus and complete their schoolwork — especially at the level they did in a more stable school environment. Your world has been rocked, and so has theirs. So what kinds of interventions could be helpful to kids right now?
Communication and self-awareness.
Regularly ask students how they are doing. Encourage them to identify how they are feeling, and maybe also make it a project to have them identify the things that make them feel calm and happy. Maybe spending time with a pet, listening to music, or going for a walk. Whatever those things are, encourage students to do them every day.
Caring for physical health.
It’s too easy for all of us right now to neglect exercise and snack on anything we feel like. But taking care of our physical health impacts our mental health as well. It’s important for students to get outside, or at least get some physical activity inside if that’s safer in your area. Help students to think about the importance of eating well, moving their body, and getting enough sleep. This may not seem like a typical ‘intervention’, but it’s something that students, and honestly many of us, are probably struggling with right now.
The power of human relationships when it comes to our social-emotional health is undeniable. We may not realize how much we’ve relied on others until we can’t spend time with them like we used to. Use the technology at your disposal to keep in touch with your students, and encourage them to talk to each other often, as well as keeping up with other friends and family members. Maybe it’s awkward for some at first — but maintaining human contact will help students stay positive.
Asking for help.
This ties in a bit with the communication piece — asking your students how they are doing, and what they need, will help you identify how you can best assist them. But you may not always be able to ascertain this based on a phone conversation or a video chat. Maybe it’s not what you’d typically think of as a support for intervention, but encourage your students to feel free to ask for help when they need it. Whether it’s an assignment they’re struggling to complete, or maybe when they’re just having a bad day – let them know there is someone there they can talk to.
Helping other people shifts the focus from ourselves to someone else. It gives us perspective, almost like we’re taking a break from our own problems. As a result, we end up happier after we’ve given our time and energy to help someone else, than we had been wishing someone would help us. Ask your students to think about who they can help, and how. Is it someone at home, or another classmate? Could they wash the dishes, take out the trash, or (safely) volunteer in some way to do something someone else can’t? Showing kindness to others has a powerful impact on our happiness. It will help students develop empathy despite being scared of what’s happening, and will certainly improve their social-emotional health.
This being said, while academics might not be taking the front seat, they’re still important. We all still want kids to be able to learn and grow. So small group instruction and one-on-one support can still happen, just digitally. Your school’s teams and PLCs may still be meeting virtually and identifying the students that need intervention. But maybe next time, remember that it’s not just a small group of students that need support right now, it’s all of them. And as an educator, show some self-compassion, too. You need support just as much as your students do. This is a tremendous challenge, and it’s overwhelming. So do the best you can to support your students, but give yourself some much-needed room to breathe. Your fellow teachers are going through the same thing, and they’ll remind you that you’re all just trying your best. So when you get a chance, high-five them. Through a screen, of course.