With virtual learning continuing at STEM through the end of 2020, ensuring the mental, social and emotional health of students is a top priority. That is why STEM’s team of counselors and social workers are there to help in any case where a student feels overwhelmed, confused or challenged.
One of those STEM employees is Jordyn Russo, a social worker who specializes in helping special education students. Below is a Question and Answer Session with Russo and STEM communications manager Jeff Maher discussing the resources students can use to help with their emotional and social health during virtual learning.
Q: What general advice would you have for students who are struggling with adapting to virtual learning?
- First and foremost , GRACE! Give yourself grace and those around you as we are all navigating this new norm.
- Create a routine and stick to it. Consistency is important. Being able to anticipate and have a bit of a sense of control is important. Sleep hygiene falls in this category and is super important! allowing yourself to calm down and go to bed at the same time
- Use your supports and reach out for support and help! Specifically to your teachers. They want to help you and aren’t able to unless you let them know you need some assistance! A little off course from the topic of virtual learning, but this is the golden rule. Now and moving forward, Whether it be for mental health, social purposes, connecting with family, whatever it may look like please reach out! Everyone is having to lean on their support system more now than ever and reaching out to your teachers is also really important.
- Move your body and make sure you are spending your time connecting with others and finding joy! Ensure your balance of have-tos (THINGS YOU HAVE TO DO ) and want-tos (things you get to do and look forward to doing are balanced)
Q: Tell us about ‘Russo’s Calming Room’.
A: So this is essentially a virtual room that students can access at any point of the day to use as a healthy distraction, a reset or just a place to visit to engage in tools and resources to be of overall help. Many of the items in the calming room you can hover over and will take you to an associated link. Items you will find in the calming room are coloring pages, music instruments to play around on, visits to the zoo and aquarium to see animals and creatures. This room is specific for STEM students and has “posters” students can click to direct them to their counselors, mental health support, sources of strength and the stem center for strength.
Visit ‘Ms. Russo’s calming corner’ here:
Q: Why is it important to separate your bedroom from your classroom and how does it work?
A: Oh yes. This is something that I utilize and have been encouraging students to do since this all began. The idea around this is our bodies and mind create associations and act accordingly. So for students who are doing work in their bedroom and spending 8 hours in there, especially if they are not moving out of their bed, this creates a confusing association and our body and mind aren’t sure what to do in this space. Encouraging a designated space that students know is for school work is very important and is also proven to show more success. This can be thought about in the same way of staying in PJ’s all day and not getting ready for the day can impact our mood and even task completion.
Q: What advice do you have for students trying to do virtual learning in small spaces?
A: Small spaces, noisy households. Parents and siblings trying to navigate this can be very overwhelming. Similar to what I was just speaking about. Creating your space for school will be very beneficial. For many that may be a makeshift desk in your room or somewhere at the table. Since we are eating, sleeping, playing, studying, etc. in one space visual cues can help with breaking this space up and helping with differing associations. An example of this is when you begin school in the morning in your bedroom hang an item, a flag or something that indicates this space at this time is for studying. When the school day is over, remove this said flag and verbal announce the day is over and this space is now your calm space and bedroom. If possible, take some space away from the room you have spent all day in.
Q: What can teachers do to help students stay mentally and physically healthy during this virtual learning period?
A: Fortunately STEM’s teachers are readily available and are willing to help students in any way they can. Encouraging students to move! Integrating it into their curriculum if it allows, reminding them to take care of themselves and to reach out to both their own supports and teachers alike for a more normalized opportunity to ask for help. Appropriately modeling healthy activities that support their mental and physical health to provide connection and examples students could use. And of course Give one another grace.
Check out her full interview below: