In part 2 of our series, we focus on the social, emotional, and mental health needs of students during this pandemic. While our nation used business and school closures in the spring of 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19, we spent the summer focusing on how we prioritize the needs of students during a pandemic. Last week we talked about the academic gap as a result of long-term closures, this week we focus in on the mental health. Once organizations were able to make decisions on re-opening based on their safe operating plans, we focused in on prioritizing the needs of our students while creating a safe campus.
We are created by God to be a part of a community. And when that community is taken away, we see the emotional toll that can take on us. Combined with the fears that come with community crises like a pandemic, fear, anxiety, and loneliness can set in.
Listen in as Dr. Locklear, Head of School interviews Mrs. Mindy Haukedahl and Mr. Jed Moseman about taking care of the social, emotional, and mental health of students during a global pandemic.
Dr. Locklear: We want to spend some time today to talk about how we’re managing education during COVID-19 and navigating the social, emotional needs at New Life Academy. And so if we could begin with Mr. Moseman, could you please share with us a little bit about what you’re seeing in terms of student mental health and how how you’re trying to manage that through your presence in the hallway, as well as our athletic and fine arts programs?
Mr. Moseman: Yeah, sure. It’s been a really good thing for us to have students back in the building starting back in August. When we started our sports programs up with soccer or both of our soccer teams and our tennis team going, you know, just to see them on the first day of practice as they were able to gather together and be with their coaches and have a little sense of normal again, it was worth all the work that we’ve put into to make sure that they were interacting with each other safely. The different protocols that were established by our conference, by the athletic league and by our school itself – as we’ve gotten into games now on the athletic side, just seeing kids go out and be able to enjoy the things that they do normally, all their passions, and to have those ups and downs, you know, and then everything is kind of the status quo. And there are those moments to look forward to. We quickly can settle into kind of a rut. And so to see our kids there playing those sports right now and to see them to get excited about a game coming up and even to see our fans get excited to be able to go watch a soccer game again, because it’s that sense of normal, what we’ve had in the past, but it’s different from what they’ve been experiencing for the last six months. And it’s something to get excited about. Students that aren’t athletes – I spend a lot of time in the hallways during passing time just to see them interacting with their friends, socially distanced of course, but chatting with each other. The conversations I have with teachers, other adults in the building, you can really see that there’s a positivity there that makes it worth all the different things we’re doing with masks and distancing and so forth to be able to have students in the building and be able to care for them socially and emotionally.
Dr Locklear: Mrs. Haukedahl, as the Director of the Counseling office, can you talk about what you’re seeing and how you’re supporting students who come to your office every single day?
Mrs. Haukedahl Well, of course, it’s a year unlike any we’ve ever experienced. I think that the kids are so resilient. They’re doing the best that they can. I have seen in the past week or so they are starting to the emotional toll of all the changes. You know, they are they’re so used to having been at home all summer long and now all of a sudden we’re back in the swing of things and it’s go, go, go, go, go. And they’re forgetting what it’s like to just relax. So, you know, they’re feeling stressed out at times with their schedules and the changes. I have seen that. You know, they’re wearing their masks. They’re doing the best that they can. You know, I was telling some teachers the other day, I think that our students are just so thankful to be here, that they would choose to wear a mask and be here in the presence of their friends and the teachers versus being home. But it is hard. You know, it’s very different.
Dr. Locklear: So from both of your perspectives, what are some recommendations for both students and parents around maintaining those social connections that are so important?
Mrs. Haukedahl: Well, I can say I’ve been talking to a lot of parents and students and even teachers, and I think that it’s very important that everyone is taking time to breathe. If you are coming to school and you’re doing your work for eight hours a day and maybe you’re going to a job after school or you’re babysitting or doing something, it’s important that you take time. Just relax and breathe and know that it’s OK. It’s OK to feel scared. It’s OK to feel uncomfortable. But they still need to know that we’re all in this together, you know, because that was our motto last year with our decade dance. You’re not alone and we will get through this together.
Mr. Moseman: I think the biggest thing is to find the ways that you can connect. There are so many different ways that people can stay connected even when they can’t be physically close, which is part of the reason that we’ve been here in school is because we know there’s an importance to that as well. But those kids that are missing out or feel like they’re missing out because they’re not being will be in the lunchroom with their friends or maybe they’re sitting across the room from their friends, they don’t have those 30 seconds of individual interactions. And then, to be honest, as I’ve talked to some of our teachers, they’re missing those same things. They’re in the classroom with each other or with their students all time and not able to be in the staff lunchroom at lunch. So I think they’re missing those those interactions. So it’s finding those moments where you can and taking advantage of those, but also using all the resources you have available to stay connected. My son had a good friend of his move away, and yet he’s staying connected through online gaming and whatever it might be. And I think that’s important. I have so many different ways that we can stay connected besides just being face to face. But certainly we want to take advantage of the optimism and that we are in person learning.
Dr. Locklear: Your children’s future is more important than ever. We continually think about this. We can’t let school uncertainties impact our children’s social, emotional, and mental health. No matter what school looks like, our highly trained teachers, those people that show up every day and work so hard are dedicated to your children – helping them learn and grow and develop academically and spiritually. It gets back to kingdom education where we are truly working on the Faith Foundation, the spirit within your children, the academic growth, the family and all of that existing and working within the community of New Life Academy.