A empty classroom is pictured at Eric Hamber Secondary school in Vancouver, B.C. Monday, March 23, 2020. British Columbia’s education minister says he wants to learn from other provinces and countries like New Zealand before starting to reopen schools. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A empty classroom is pictured at Eric Hamber Secondary school in Vancouver, B.C. Monday, March 23, 2020. British Columbia’s education minister says he wants to learn from other provinces and countries like New Zealand before starting to reopen schools. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Provinces must give emotional support to returning students: education advocates

Teachers should be prepared to provide ‘trauma-informed practices’ in response to students’ needs

Bored and isolated students are spending too many hours online and some have started using more substances, but all students will need extra emotional support when classes resume, says a psychiatrist who specializes in youth mental health.

Dr. Shimi Kang said that while teens typically question authority and act impulsively some are now self-medicating with substances or ignoring physical distancing measures as a way to deal with anxiety resulting from the pandemic.

“I would encourage schools to start with social emotional programming and talk about things like coping skills right in that first week going back, talk about what coping skills people used at home, what they can do now as they’re reintegrating,” said Kang, a clinical assistant professor at the University of British Columbia’s department of psychiatry.

She said academics will have to take a back seat to allowing students to express their thoughts and emotions as part of so-called social emotional learning that is already part of many curriculums across the country as a way to teach students to manage their emotions, learn empathy and compassion and to build resilience as part of a life-long practice.

That type of learning, which is separate from providing mental health supports, may involve students’ response to what’s happening in their community or around the world and being aware of how they would cope with certain situations, Kang said.

“If there’s anything that this pandemic has shown, it is that life skills get us through. It is the adaptability, the resiliency, the communication skills, the emotional regulation skills, the ability to problem solve and have optimism in the face of difficulty. That’s where we need to put our focus.”

READ MORE: ‘We don’t have a date’: Some B.C. kids might return to school before summer, but focus is on fall

It’s no longer good enough for schools to jam in a lesson on social emotional learning to meet the criteria, she said, advising that it should be incorporated into the overall kindergarten-to-Grade 12 curriculum.

Chris Markham, executive director of the non-profit Ontario Physical and Health Education Association, said part of the response to COVID-19 should involve a plan for all provinces to strengthen the social emotional learning components of their curriculums.

“The broader conversation pre-COVID was still on strengthening this curriculum — B.C.’s, Alberta’s, Ontario’s, they’ve all got it somewhere,” he said of most jurisdictions across the country.

“At this point in time maybe the shiny coin in all of this is how important all those skills are to enabling kids to be resilient and for them to thrive, sometimes in situations that are completely out of their control. This should be a wake-up call to us,” Markham said.

“Right now, we’re trying to facilitate a conversation with the province about doing that,” Markham said of Ontario, adding he recently discussed the importance of students’ well-being with Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Lecce said in a tweet on April 30 that he’d spoken with Markham about ”our strong commitment to supporting the health and well-being of every Ontario student through COVID-19.”

Ontario’s Ministry of Education said in an email it has heard from parents and various groups “who have told us to prioritize well-being and mental health of our students. In collaboration with our education sector partners, we will continue to prioritize well-being and mental health when discussing the transition back to school.”

Shelley Morse, president of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, said teachers should be prepared to provide “trauma-informed practices” in response to students’ needs, especially those who may be living in fear from having witnessed domestic violence or experienced food shortages during the pandemic.

“We have to make sure that when they come back, we’re ready to debrief and deal with those situations and worry about the content at a later time,” she said. “We know we’re going to have students with trauma, even trauma from going back into the classroom with all the unknowns.”

READ MORE: Canadian high school grads-to-be grapple with possible ceremony cancellations

So far, only Quebec has announced plans to reopen schools in mid-May for primary students.

Morse said it’s hard to know how younger children will react to seeing teachers in personal protective equipment, if they choose to wear it, as well as not being permitted to get close to the classmates they haven’t seen in two months.

“I’m a little concerned about Quebec,” she said. “I’m not sure that they’ve had proper time for that return to school.”

The Ministry of Education in Quebec said in a statement that teachers would be vigilant in providing support to students who need it.

“This increased vigilance will also help detect students who have experienced trauma and those who will develop symptoms after returning to class,” it said.

British Columbia’s ministry said in an email that its social emotional learning program, called Core Competencies, is a central foundation of the curriculum.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusEducationSchools

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Author Rosa Jordan
Join Kimberley Library for an author Zoom session

Join the Kimberley Public Library for an evening as the award-winning novelist… Continue reading

Cranbrook Search and Rescue safely and effectively rescued an injured snowmobiler on January 16. Pictured are six members took part in a Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 course, which also took place on the 16th. Members are required to have at minimum AST1 for winter responses. (Facebook/Cranbrook SAR file)
Cranbrook SAR rescues injured snowmobiler from Lumberton area

A helicopter crew assisted in safely and quickly located the injured person

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
253 new COVID-19 cases, 4 more deaths in Interior Health over the weekend

More than 1,000 cases in the region remain active

map
Cranbrook sees five COVID-19 cases in first week of January; Kimberley none

To date, there have been nearly 230 cases reported in the East Kootenay region

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
‘Horrible’: Number of positive tests in Elk Valley on the rise

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Robbie Campbell lost his livelihood when the pandemic shut down Shambhala Music Festival. Instead, he spent part of 2020 working on a children’s book called Tulip that is now available. Photo: Submitted
In a lousy year, a Kootenay man was saved by a pink T-rex

Robbie Campbell became a children’s author after the pandemic cost him his livelihood

Health-care workers wait in line at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians who have had COVID-19 should still get the vaccine, experts say

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were found to have a 95 per cent efficacy

An empty Peel and Sainte-Catherine street is shown in Montreal, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Poll finds strong support for COVID-19 curfews despite doubts about effectiveness

The poll suggests 59 per cent remain somewhat or very afraid of contracting COVID-19

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Most Read