Supporting Students
January 27, 2021

Supporting Our Students (and Ourselves)

The Institute kicks off 2021 with events that focus on supporting students – and ourselves – amidst uncertainty.
by Tang Institute

Two recent Tang Institute events featured speakers who discussed ways parents, students, and educators can support themselves and each other. Below is a recap of the tools and strategies that were discussed in these conversations; we hope readers find these helpful as we all continue to navigate challenging times.

Denise Pope offers strategies, tools to promote student resilience, creativity, and well-being

On January 12, Dr. Denise Pope addressed Andover parents and caregivers in her webinar, “Navigating School During Uncertain Times.” A senior lecturer at Stanford's School of Education and co-founder of Challenge Success, Pope spoke about how families and caregivers can best support their children during this pandemic, drawing upon her own research and that of Challenge Success. Dr. Pope’s presentation raised some themes that she had discussed with the Andover faculty during a previous visit, most notably the ways in which adults can create learning environments that will support student learning and lead to less student stress.

Throughout her presentation, Pope offered tips to promote student well-being and engagement with learning. One was establishing a flexible routine in a consistent space for children in remote school. She also spoke about the importance of what Challenge Success calls "PDF" —playtime, downtime, and (intentional) family time. Studies have shown that prioritizing PDF activities, like exercise, reading for fun, and eating meals as a family, lead to increased self-esteem and better academic outcomes.

Before signing off, Dr. Pope shared an important takeaway: a reminder that children are persevering through a pandemic. They are not failing at school, they are not losing social skills — they are navigating an unprecedented event. She encouraged all in attendance to thank them (and thank themselves!) for continuing to move forward.

One Moment at a Time: Mindfulness educator promotes self-care and well being among educators

On January 13, mindfulness educator Alison Cohen began her session by naming the personal, racial, and COVID-related traumas of the past year. Then she offered an invitation for all educators and school-based professionals in attendance to focus inward and prioritize well-being.

For many, Cohen said, feelings of anxiety, doubt, and worry have been a near constant over the past year. And while taking time for self-care and prioritizing our mental health is crucial, they all too easily get pushed to the bottom of the priority list in an effort to navigate what Cohen refers to as the “juggle struggle” – the attempt to balance work, life, and health during this pandemic.

During the workshop, participants from Andover and area schools learned and tried out educator-tested mindfulness tools and strategies. Techniques ranged from ways to cultivate connection in the age of Zoom (quietly saying “you are real” as you look at each face during a meeting can be an important reminder of the real people behind the screen) to counteracting ‘Blursday’ (Cohen suggests placing a hand on your laptop and setting an intention for yourself before diving into your work). These approaches, said Cohen, are not one size fits all, and participants were encouraged to tweak as necessary to fit their personal needs and goals.

Participants left the workshop refreshed and prepared to face a new day with tools for both themselves and their students. As one participant put it “After a stressful day teaching 28 third graders remotely, I was contemplating skipping Alison's workshop. I am glad I didn’t - [the workshop] was just what I needed to relax after a long work day. The next morning, I used two of the strategies she taught me with my students. I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate in Tang Institute programming.”

Looking ahead, the Tang Institute is excited to expand on its mindfulness offerings, especially those that can be of service to parents and teachers. As always, our events are free and open to the Andover and wider communities; we hope everyone that can benefit from these events and programs are able to participate. Please keep an eye on our events listings and consider signing up for our newsletter, Notes on Learning, to stay updated on upcoming events and programming.

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