As the first year of virtual school is ending, I can feel my third graders experiencing a sense of anxiety rather than the typical excitement at the prospect of being promoted to the subsequent grade. They have grasped that their aspirations of school moving back to campus are an impossibility and that they will be part of a different cohort of students with a brand-new teacher in a few months.
Their sense of security in the world they have come to know is crumbling, and a sentiment of powerlessness has taken over the young ones that I teach. The virtual realm has become silent, and yet I have begun to receive notes from the children requesting me to be their facilitator in the next session as well. They fear forming fresh relationships all over again and do not want to go through the procedure of upheaval along with all the strain that COVID has brought into our lives.
It was for this purpose that two weeks before the semester was scheduled to finish, I pushed our curriculum aside to connect with my students through a few SEL activities.
We began by utilizing Google Jamboard and studying a ‘Mood Meter’. Each colour zone of the mood meter signifies different energies and feelings. The learners had to reflect on their emotions over the past one week and plot their names on the meter. It was as if Pandora’s Box had been unlocked and learners began revealing tragic stories of losing grandparents to COVID, worries of moving out of their comfort zone to the next grade, and parents separating during the lockdown. They unleashed their thoughts and communicated freely with their peers who empathized with them and encouraged them.
It was reassuring to see such young children being able to understand their friends’ dilemmas and was proof of how significantly they had grown over the last year. It also made me ponder about how they had been compelled to grow up before their time as the instances that they were talking about were concerns that they would never have had to deal with, had the pandemic not wreaked havoc in our lives.
After a period of sharing, I encouraged them to look to the future with greater resolve. My students had already exhibited so much courage that I implored them to keep reflecting on their mental wellbeing through these tough times. We then decided to write a letter to our future selves through the website https://www.futureme.org/
Learners authored letters which they would receive a year from that date to see how far they had progressed in their wellbeing journey. They introspected on values that they hope to develop during the coming year and jotted down their goals. They were excited to bring positive changes in their attitudes and begin their year afresh with focus and determination.
Just one simple SEL session turned out to be a formidable tool to bring about positive changes in the young ones. The positivity exuded by the children would take them through the coming week and the goals set by them could carry them to the next year. It also drives home the fact that Social and Emotional Learning trumps the curriculum, especially during trying times. Every child needs to reset their equilibrium before we approach them to absorb more. I expect to involve the children in a lot more SEL sessions before the week is out to make certain that they return to school in the next session in a content state of mind.