The Conscious Classroom

Working with Social Anxiety - The Post Pandemic Classroom

June 08, 2021 Episode 38
The Conscious Classroom
Working with Social Anxiety - The Post Pandemic Classroom
Show Notes Transcript

The second episode in this series looks at the phenomenon of teens who are reluctant to go back to the classroom, who are afraid, ashamed, or anxious about their peers' response to them. These students need support to break the ice. They will need to be able to trust the boundaries set up in the class. In this episode, Amy Edelstein will share some tools for the classroom and attitudes that will help you invite reluctant students back to in person learning, while respecting their boundaries and their concerns.

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Welcome to the conscious classroom podcast, where we're exploring tools and perspectives that support educators and anyone who works with teams to create more conscious, supportive, and enriching learning environments. Jamie Edelstein and I'll be sharing transformative insights and easy to implement classroom supports that are all drawn from mindful awareness and systems thinking the themes we'll discuss are designed to improve your own joy and fulfillment in your work and increase your impact on the world we share.

Let's get on with this next episode.

Welcome to the conscious classroom. My name is Amy Edelstein. I'm your host and bringing you tools for the classroom to make it more conscious, more mindful, more loving, and a better place for you and for all your students to grow and become. Who you can be really realize your higher potentials in this section, in this session today, the second of my series on back to school and processing the pandemic, we're going to speak about a couple of the issues that students may be facing.

And particularly right now, we're going to speak about students with social anxiety. So students who are not looking forward to going back to school who are feeling ill at ease, who are resisting the idea of being back with their peers. Who are frightened of social criticism who feel acutely, that they don't fit in, or who have things that have happened over the last year that they've never told anyone about.

Maybe their parents got ill with coronavirus and they never mentioned it. Maybe their mother is still struggling. With side-effects with ongoing symptoms and is fatigued and unable to care for her child. And that student may never have told anyone and is carrying that burden and doesn't want to be found out doesn't want the support or thinks that they don't.

What are we going to do for the students like that? How do we prepare the classroom to welcome them back? And how do we help them come out of themselves in order to be part of the classroom community? We all know that when we're teaching in a classroom and we have those pockets of students who don't participate, who are checked out, who are lost in their own world, who are struggling with something on their own, we feel that blank hole and everyone in the class feels that black hole.

And when we have a class where everyone is engaged, working together, Work with each other. We feel that the whole class hums, it supports everyone. So those students who are resistant to coming back who are hiding issues that have happened, that they've experienced over this last year, that they've never told anyone about and that's causing them to withdraw or be fearful, needs a certain kind of support.

They need an on-ramp. They need an invitation to come back in.

So let's think about this. And that's also acknowledged that maybe your district or your principal is providing additional mental and emotional supports for teachers and for school. In my experience, working with hundreds of thousands of teachers, I, more and more the bulk of what I'm seeing is that there is not enough discussion around what the fall is going to look like.

Teachers are not being given the opportunity to prepare

the first way to prepare for. Is, if you have a small circle of colleagues from your school or a peer group of teachers or counselors set up some times to discuss together, acknowledge the issues that you may be facing and start to source a community. That has is looking for answers so that you have a methodology and a way to share best practices share.

What's working in real time. When you go back, somebody may do something in a class and it's the perfect. Activity that draws out a student with social anxiety and others, and it may not work in your class, but having that to try is going to be very important. So create a community. That's the first step and a small community, something that's manageable, something where, where you feel connection, you feel that you can collaborate and you feel.

Then let's think about what might be contributing to student's social anxiety. So maybe they withdrew over this time during the pandemic, maybe they weren't visible. They didn't participate in chat. They didn't turn their computer cameras on when they were in class. Maybe they let themselves slip and didn't achieve what they usually do and they feel embarrassed.

And we'll talk about the academic side of it as well. But when we're looking at social anxiety, it may be that sense that they've let themselves down, or they're not who they thought they were. They don't have it together as well as they might have the year before. And they're ashamed or embarrassed.

I have seen students who were really excellent, you know, leaders in their class disappear for, you know, all but disappear over this past year. So imagine the concern, the tension, the self-consciousness that they may be experiencing with the idea of reconnecting. And needing to be what they were.

There are students who simply feel so painfully self-conscious about the way they look about where they live about any details about their lives, that the idea of coming back to school. And needing to be in relationship, fills them with a sense of anxiety or dread. And of course human beings are social creatures and adolescents are social creatures and it's important to be in relationship.

It's fulfilling to be in relationship. The students are identified with being out of relationship, although finding positive options. To community, we'll nourish them and dispel a lot of tension and worry that they carry.

So let's think about some of the habits that we can, we can add to the classroom. So first off, as you come back to school, have to, these are very simple tools that they may see. To high schoolers may be somewhat, immature for them, but it's going to be a really helpful way to get a sense of what's happening.

Have two anonymous or too, too closed boxes or jars and index cards, two colors, a yellow and a red. Green and a blue, give each student a yellow and a red or whatever, two colors you choose, have them write. One thing that they're excited about for the new school year. One thing that they're looking forward to, and one thing that they're not looking forward.

And have them write one on each and come up without their names, put them in the two different jars and then go about your classroom.

The next day, have the having read what's what's there you have a better sense of what you're dealing with, but the next day, ask them. One good thing that happened over this past year away, they grew an unexpected strength, something that they enjoyed. And one thing that, one thing that was hard for them over this last.

And again, use two different colors, two different jars, and just collect that. And then you can go about the rest of your day with the students. So you're allowing the students to process just a little bit at a time,

taking it in. You're getting a good sense of what's on their mind and you're helping them come into the class without leaving behind what happened prior

established for the students, a specific space or protocols. When they need to take a little bit of time. So whether you have a peace table or whether you have an art corner or an activity corner or a mindfulness corner,

Establish some space so that if waves of strong emotions. Take hold. They don't have to hide. They can come up to you and they can say, I need to use the decompress corner. I need to use the decompressed space. I need to do some mindful breathing. If students have experienced, you know, the frightening, event of a parent.

Struggling to breathe. Being in the hospital on a ventilator, a beloved grandparent who died due to the pandemic or other issues that happened during the year. These are going to need, the kids are bringing those with them and you're not a therapy room, but in order to. Work through this most unusual time together.

You want to have a protocol where they can work on their self-reflection journal. They can step out for five minutes and process what they need to process and come back.

If you just shared agreements, every. In the shared agreement. And if you don't, I recommend that you, in your first week back to school, you create some classroom shared agreements, sit in a circle, move the desks. What are the qualities that everyone wants in their classroom? What are the guidelines? So obviously respect listening.

Support helping each other collaboration and bring up the knee healing as a priority growth as a priority, working together to emerge from our disrupted lives in the pandemic to this new life.

Put the emphasis on growing and strengthening and put the emphasis on respect for boundaries. So for those students who have social anxiety, they need to know that they're going to have the space to test the waters, get used to the temperature. And come in on their own time that they're not going to be forced to, to cross the boundaries of comfort, even though they still have to participate in a group environment, which a classroom is

established for students, how everyone feels concern. Self-consciousness. Inadequacy, some students feel it more strongly, but it's a human emotion normalize those feelings so that they can move into the background, not into the foreground.

creating some markers in your room. Our restorative for students also can help with this process pictures of a beautiful scene in nature animals. Having a living plant,

playing transition music when they're coming in or during advisory. Okay. If your school allows that that can really help allowing them to pick the transition music, creating guidelines for that,

creating your own playlist, having them participate in that, sharing it on your school, social media. All of those ways to invite students, to be part of the classroom structure, norms, boundaries can really help students who are struggling with social anxiety. So students who feel they don't belong, feel that they don't want to be there, feel that they're unsure of what the boundaries are.

Students who feel unsafe or that their personal space will be violated, that people will come to close, asked too much, forced, too much disclosure. Those are the students you want to engage in helping to create the classroom shared.

Helping students heal from trauma means recognizing that they will blossom in their own time.

Now it doesn't mean allowing students to wallow or indulge in antisocial behavior. But it does mean that

inviting them to test their boundaries each day, reach towards another student, participate in a way, you know, in a group activity and constantly. Helping them see that every little bit of progress is bigger than the thing itself. That it really is an indication that they're not just in a static state, but as human beings, we're constantly in a state of energy and flow and movement.

And even if they feel. Actually things are always moving. And if things are always moving, then they have the opportunity to make a connection where they didn't feel comfortable before

using some sematic practices. Also we'll help students process their. Worry and anxiety. So if students have strong anxiety, a very focused body scan might increase that sense of fluttering newness, but doing some mindful mood. Twists in the chair, raising the arms, overhead and stretching from side to side, doing some cross body exercises and activities, which are on the inner strength app or they're on the inner strength, resources for teens doing some mindful movement.

That helps stretch out the body helps shake out. The tension can help students with a lot of anxiety release and relieve that and feel grounded, very focused body scan, going through sensations from head to toe, may end up triggering a student or, or, or amplifying their feeling of anxiety. So see how you can weave in the movement, the sense of grounding, the feeling present, the stretching, stretching out, reaching towards

a nice activity that can help students with social anxiety. Feel a sense of connection is to play imaginary cat. So have an imaginary ball and have them toss the imaginary ball. They call out the name of who they're tossing it to. And you always have to choose somebody who hasn't had the ball before and play catch around the room, or you can all be in, in your desks and have a structured order to it.

But having that sense of cat. And from somebody else to somebody else helps them feel that sense of connection helps them break out of that social isolation without forcing any kind of disclosure or discussion, but that sense of catching and releasing of being in relationship with another.

and the final thing I want to leave you with is the importance of, of identifying for your students, the universality of their experience, the fact that all human beings have a range of emotions. We all feel happy. We all feel sad. We all feel angry. We all feel grief. We all feel anxious. We all feel self-conscious.

We were all born and we will all die. We all eat. We all sleep. We all go to the bathroom. We all drank everyone. Shares that common humanity and having that common humanity as a theme for this year can really help students who have felt a tremendous amount of anxiety, sadness, grief, fear, and even depression.

Can help them find that window of tolerance where a feel okay. Because they trust that everyone around them has had similar feelings. Maybe not as intense, maybe more intense, but similar. They're not alone. They're not like a creature from Mars.

the final practical, tool I want to give you is to have a, a basket filled with small objects that are pleasant to touch beads, you know, strong on a string, a smooth stone. Seashell a little fuzzy ball of yarn with small one little things that you find that students can adopt have it in their pocket and use that stone as a touchstone.

So I'm enough just as I am. So when they're feeling anxiety to choose, to take out their object or put their hand in their pocket, feel that object and attach that sensation to a positive affirmation, whatever positive affirmation they choose, but something like I'm enough just as I am

and make it positively frame.

And make it inclusive. They can write their own, or you can create a list of positive affirmations so they can choose from because they might not know how to do it and make sure you have enough of these small objects, smooth stones or beads so that they all have something that's tactical. And that can serve as that anchor when they're feeling overwhelmed and they don't know what to do.

Small things like that. Allowing, recognizing that this year is going to be exciting. There's going to be a lot of growth. There's going to be a lot of discovery and it's going to be a challenging one. So I hope this helps. I want you to feel a sense of, of real practical tools. I have one more episode that for, the next session where we're going to talk more about grief and loss and violent gun violence, which has been an epidemic in some cities, but until then be well.

Stay conscious, keep supporting yourself, allowing yourself to be easy and restore yourself so that you can. Enter the classroom in the fall with that sense of real possibility that we can really make these classrooms, not just factories of learning, but real environments for whole person growth and development, and that is going to serve you.

And it's going to serve your students for decades to come.

Thank you for listening to the conscious classroom. I'm your host, Amy Edelstein. Please check out the show notes on inner strength, for links and more information. And if you enjoyed this podcast, please share it with a friend and pass the love on see you next time.