The Psychosocial Functions Take Precedence in the Pandemic: A Math for All Perspective
By Nesta Marshall
From live classrooms to lattices of faces on a screen, from close personal engagement to electronic communication, the pandemic has upended learning for students, teachers, and parents. Given these unexpected, perplexing, and disruptive changes, what can teachers do to maintain a learning environment that promotes a sense of belonging, safety, and security for their students? First, they need to care for themselves.
Self-Care for Teachers
- Cultivate an optimistic mindset; draw on your faith or wellness kit as needed.
- Know that your best effort is good enough; embrace disequilibrium and mistakes; relish opportunities for growth.
- Set short-term and realistic goals for becoming skilled at using online devices and features.
- Remember tomorrow is a new day with opportunities for a fresh start.
- Decompress and refuel with fun-loving activities, creative undertakings, or a quiet retreat.
- Buffer distressing moments and defuse tensions with calming exercises or soothing words.
- Connect with a buddy—someone who listens without evaluating and who cares unconditionally.
Teachers should also consider the role that four psychosocial functions play in impacting the social-emotional capacities of their students. These functions are reading and acting on social information, perspective taking, communication and interpretation of feelings, and requesting skills. Students should be empowered to utilize their actions, words, facial expressions, and body language appropriately in their work as individuals and with peers. Below, you’ll find some suggestions that may come in handy as you build your classroom community to optimize remote social relationships and foster emotional care.
Care for Students
- Start the day with a brief community-building activity. For example, ask students to share personal artifacts that related to a given theme, or engage students in show and tell.
- Encourage self-advocacy and open communication by using language such as, “I need __________ to learn/do/use/find/share/complete/focus/remember __________.”
- Model constructive online social etiquette. For example, state requests in an acceptable way.
- Create a classroom culture where students feel comfortable sharing their vulnerabilities and successes. For example, use sentence starters such as “I don’t know/understand, but I want to be able to…” and “Something that worked well for me is….”
- Use consistent structures and routines to help students be independent and to boost their confidence.
- Utilize students’ strengths and interests, as well as culturally relevant practices, to help them thrive.
- Affirm that virtual learning, though different, is doable with students and teacher working together as allies. For example, encourage a classroom motto such as: “No one will be alone; we’re in this together.”
- Carve out time for periodic check-ins and “focus-reenergizers”. For example, use non-verbal signals such as thumbs up/down or incorporate movement breaks.
- Invite students to co-construct the learning community by sharing their ideas for strengthening community practices. For example, help them to offset feelings of helplessness by collaborative problem solving.
In addition to the above ideas, Sharon Ravitch’s Why Teaching Through Crisis Requires a Radical New Mindset offers some timely recommendations for teachers to consider as they navigate this new world of remote education. The three R’s, namely Resilience, Responsiveness, and Reassurance, can also go a long way in creating an online classroom community where all members feel valued, supported and nurtured.
Math for All is a professional development program that brings general and special education teachers together to enhance their skills in
planning and adapting mathematics lessons to ensure that all students achieve high-quality learning outcomes in mathematics.