The world is getting crazier by the day.
Just when we feel like we’re getting a handle on the pandemic, perhaps even coming out the other side of it, Russia goes and invades Ukraine.
Our students are going to be hurting in so many different ways.
I shared an image on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, about how our students have been impacted by the pandemic. This was the image:
The conversation that ensued was half supportive, with an undercurrent of shocked disbelief that our students have been THIS impacted with regard to their time at school.
The other half, on the other hand, claimed that the students don’t know any different. That *their* school was largely unaffected. That our students are just fine. That their resilience renders this inert.
That other half, well that really blew my mind.
How naïve to assume that our students aren’t feeling any repercussions from what’s going on in the world. How blinkered to say that this is their normal and they don’t know better.
KIDS KNOW. They KNOW when something is off in the world around them, whether that’s in their immediate home or in their larger community. They are intuitively attuned to the undercurrent of emotion, stress, concern, that the adults around them are trying to hide. Even if the individual student has led a ‘normal’ life these past few years, you absolutely cannot assume that they have remained unaffected by what’s going on.
Children are hardwired to tune into the unspoken around them, it’s a biological survival tactic.
They hear the whispered conversations. They feel the tensions.
And the react accordingly.
I’m seeing ever-increasing reports of undesirable behaviours in students. More and more students disengaging from traditional, formal schooling. The world order is shifting, and our kids are heading into it *as children*.
Us adults can adapt, change, find appropriate coping mechanisms. But how can we expect children and teenagers to appropriately adapt and cope when their brains are literally underdeveloped in these areas.
And now it *feels* like we are heading into WWIII.
Your students are alert to this. Don’t ignore that.
I remember when I was in primary school, in grade 7, and the Twin Towers fell. I remember waking up to my mum watching it on TV, crying her heart out in the lounge room. I remember going to school, where every conversation was interjected with snippets of what we were seeing, hearing, feeling. Us little kids were more on edge, snapping more easily at each other, more easily distracted in class.
I remember us being in the playground at break time. Every time a plane flew over, the entire playground paused and looked up. Our underdeveloped, scared, irrational brains were genuinely worried that a plane was going to crash into our school.
Yes, that sounds utterly absurd to us as adults (even me). Why on Earth would a terrorist organisation crash a plane into a random Brisbane primary school? But that’s where our brains went.
I can only imagine where the brains of my own students are at now.
Parents endlessly stressed, especially about work and about their kids being at school. Both on the side of staying healthy, but also literally being able to go to work and keep a roof over everyone’s heads.
If their people at home are extra stressed, extra burnt out, extra worried, our kids are copping the brunt of it. We’re seeing more kids feeling lonely, isolated, neglected. Everyone is hyper-focused on something else.
And now the possibility (however remote) of war.
The more empathetic students are likely keeping an almost obsessive watch over the situation in Ukraine. They are crying into their pillows at night. Either that, or they are doing everything they can to distract themselves.
OF COURSE our students are going to be more on edge. Of course they are going to be acting in odd ways, being slightly more illogical, slightly more on edge, slightly more distracted. Enacting more risky behaviours, or being quieter than usual.
That’s 100000% natural, normal, and expected.
As teachers, we need to notice this. We need to accept it. We need to accept the reality of their world shifting, yet again, just when it felt like it was settling.
We need to remember what it’s like to be a school student – someone who is literally watching the world burn, but at the same time is so very genuinely concerned about how their hair looks tomorrow, or how their friends keep talking when they’re not around.
Their seemingly irrelevant concerns, those things that just *do not matter* in the grand scheme of the world.
It’s so easy as an adult to scoff at those, to dismiss them. But as soon as you dismiss them, you dismiss the entire person that they’re attached to.
Do not dismiss your students right now. They need us to be a source of reality, a source of familiarity, a source of routine and comfort. All of their feelings are valid. All of their feelings are the most important feelings in the world, to them.
Give your students some grace right now. Give each other some grace right now.
Does that mean letting everything slide? Of course not. Hold the same standards you always have, but with an extra dash of kindness and patience. We ourselves are likely to be just as on edge, just as concerned, just as fatigued. Watch your reactions and responses.
Get yourself help if needed. And be there for your students in the best capacity you can.
Who knows what’s around the corner.
IPhoto by Rae Angela on Unsplash