In the past few weeks, we have seen Australian teachers rise to the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown at them. We would like to thank you for your unwavering dedication to the education of your students.

At Jacaranda, our number one priority is to support you and the wider school community. We understand that in times of crisis and uncertainty, a student’s wellbeing is just as important as their education.

To help us, help you, we asked Dr Michael Carr-Gregg to join us for a webinar on ‘Supporting student wellbeing during COVID-19’. Dr Carr-Gregg is one of Australia’s highest-profile psychologists, author of 15 books, broadcaster and a specialist in parenting, children, adolescents and the use of technology for mental health.

Michael_Carr-Gregg

Although this webinar has passed, we would like to give everyone the opportunity to get expert advice on supporting student wellbeing. That’s why we have written a summary of Dr Carr-Gregg’s main tips from his presentation below.

During his presentation, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg shared tips and strategies for teachers on: 

  1. Supporting students to adjust to their new norm
  2. Managing student anxiety and stress in times of crisis
  3. Proactive ideas to promote student wellbeing

Supporting students to adjust to their new norm

Tip 1: Understand the challenges your students are facing

  • Tons of uncertainty
  • Remote schoolwork
  • Lots of family time

Tip 2: Ensure your students are set up with a positive at-home routine

  • Get up early, have a shower, eat breakfast and get dressed for the day
  • Set up your desk in a discrete learning space
  • Start online sessions on time and ideally at the same time each day
  • Take their recess and lunch breaks virtually, with friends
  • Food prep – avoid grazing all-day
  • Modify your expectations – do your best in this new reality
  • Ensure weekends are different from weekdays
  • Find new projects (that are long-term and satisfying) to gain knowledge and learn new skills

Tip 3: Give them ideas to keep them motivated to learn

  • Set goals – long- and short-term
  • Break the task down into manageable chunks – 20 minutes of study, followed by a short break
  • Get into a study routine and stick to it
  • Celebrate when you achieve your goals
  • Managing anxiety and stress in times of crisis

Managing anxiety and stress in times of crisis

Tip 4: Tell your students to understand and practice positive attitudes

  • Fear and anxiety are normal and natural responses
  • NAME and NOTICE negative thoughts – then move forward
  • Focus only on what YOU can control, not things outside your control
  • Be alert but not alarmed – be positive, but understand the seriousness of the situation

Tip 5: Keep an eye out for these three red flags

  1. Presentations for mental health problems are declining – this doesn’t necessarily mean there are fewer cases, so keep a closer eye on your student’s wellbeing during this time.
  2. Young people with major mental health problems are staying away from treatment, and
  3. Losing contact from students is the biggest warning sign

If you are worried about a student or haven’t heard from them, Michael recommends reaching out to make sure they are okay. If you’re not sure if they are okay, Michael suggests using objective online tools such as the Anxiety and depression checklist or the Child mental health checklist from Beyond Blue.

Proactive ideas to promote student wellbeing

Tip 6: Advise students to proactively support their wellbeing

  • Take a break from the 24-hour news cycle
  • Do things that make them feel physically and emotionally safe
  • Engage in activities that promote a sense of calm, like yoga
  • Use tools to help de-escalate their anxiety – such as Michael’s favourite mindfulness app, Smiling Mind
  • Create a music playlist with song titles that expresses their feelings
  • Declutter their room for 5 mins a day
  • Watch or read something uplifting

Tip 7: Maintain the three physical building blocks of wellbeing

  • Sleep
  • Exercise
  • Diet – check out the Food & Mood Centre to learn about the connection between what we eat and how we feel

Tip 8: Practice Michael’s positive mindset mantras

“If you can’t change something, change the way you think about it”

“See life as it is, but focus on the good bits”

“When we’re together, everything’s better”

Tip 9: Finally, remind students they should try to

  1. Address their own basic needs
  2. Expand their gratitude practice
  3. Set informational boundaries
  4. Focus on what they can control
  5. De-escalate their nervous system – yoga, mindfulness, etc.
  6. Cultivate compassion for others
  7. Rekindle connections and reach out

We would like to thank Dr Michael Carr-Gregg for taking the time to join us and for sharing his invaluable knowledge and strategies on student wellbeing. We hope this information goes a long way in helping support Australian teachers and students during this truly unprecedented time.

Jacaranda is also supporting schools in a number of other ways. Here are just a few:

  • Not using Jacaranda? We are offering free access to Jacaranda resources for their teachers and students for all of Term 2, 2020. We kindly ask that you submit one request per school to your local Jacaranda Consultant.
  • Using Jacaranda? We have put together the Online Learning Action Plan to help you get prepared for remote learning.

There is much more support on the way, so please keep an eye out for our emails and check our website regularly to keep updated.