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Monitoring Students' Mental Health During Remote Learning

It’s no secret that the pandemic has been very hard for many people’s mental health. Sudden and prolonged isolation from friends and family, staying indoors more, anxieties and uncertainties about the future, and work and school transitioning online have all contributed to people feeling low. Students are no exception, and this adjustment period can be challenging for those adapting. However, educators have a duty of care to their students, and Covid-19 has meant that we need to find new and adopt new methods of promoting wellbeing.

Senso have been following the ways in which school officials have efficiently adapted to the new normal whilst still looking out for the mental health of their students, and we have compiled a guide on the best ways in which educators can still look out for their class during remote learning.

Look for the signs

Whilst teachers are not medically trained, and proper and thorough mental health care should be referred to doctors and counsellors, there are warning signs teachers can look out for in order to spot mental health problems and either address with the child, their caregiver, or a relevant authority, depending on severity.

Schools have safeguarding procedures in place that will recommend the right course of action when teachers recognise that a student’s mental health is declining. Some of the signs that could indicate a child struggling with their mental health include:
- Not logging into online sessions
- Not completing assignments
- Not hearing back from caregivers and guardians when reaching out to them
- Quality of work decreasing
- Not contributing in online discussions
- Never looking at their camera or replying to teachers and classmates

Encourage exercise

Regular physical activity has a correlation to decreased rates of depression and anxiety. Exercise should be promoted, as its mental and physical benefits can make a positive difference to well-being. It might be a good idea to ask your students if and how they exercised today.

If your students aren’t exercising, you could always try encouraging them to go for a walk or run. Verywellfamily recommend promoting short ‘brain breaks’ – incorporating three to five minutes of physical activity such as jumping jacks, hopping on one leg or dancing can provide a welcome break in between learning and promote physical activity to keep young minds engaged and active.

Make time for a wellbeing check

Students may not always feel comfortable opening up about their emotions, but educators can make it easier for them. Wellbeing should be of paramount importance, and opening a conversation into this could be the start of helping a student overcome silent battles. This should be approached sensitively, as some students may not feel comfortable openly discussing how they are feeling. Consider some non-invasive ways of checking in; for example, Edutopia recommends creating a mental health check-in.

“Consider creating a check-in using a Google form that asks first about a positive part of their day. Then inquire specifically about a student’s mental state. Using multiple-choice answers can help students feel less intimidated to complete the check-in.
Offer choices such as “I’m great,” “I’m OK,” “I’m struggling,” or “I’m having a hard time and would like a check-in.” For younger students, consider using happy/sad faces that show varying degrees of emotion from happy to upset. Use an open-ended question to ask if there are particular needs that can be addressed.”

Highlight the wellbeing tools available in Microsoft Teams

With millions turning to the software giant as their host for work and school, Microsoft have had to work rapidly to support its mass of new users alongside offering help to those struggling with burnout, anxiety, and uncertainty in the midst of the pandemic. If you are using Teams for your lessons, it might be of use to draw attention to the features in Teams designed to support and promote wellbeing.

For example, Microsoft has now partnered with Headspace to introduce the option for scheduled meditation during the workday, or the period of time that would be a commute. Headspace meditations have been clinically validated to reduce stress, improve focus and increase resilience, according to this article by Microsoft.

By encouraging students to take time out of their online schedule for mindfulness or meditation, this can have a calming effect and help provide a moment of peace and reflection that grounds students and breaks up the busyness of their online learning. You can learn more about the wellbeing help available in Teams here. Teachers can schedule a Headspace slot at the beginning of lessons and invite their class to participate, so it becomes a routine rather than a personal choice.

Reach out to parents and guardians

For younger children, their learning should be supported by parents or guardians. Teachers could send out emails or letters to their student’s caregivers, asking for follow ups on how their child is coping with online learning, if they’re struggling with any aspect of the work assigned, or if their child has raised any concerns to them.

Not only does this let caregivers know you are invested in the education and wellbeing of your students, it provides the opening for a conversation and an opportunity for caregivers to voice any opinions or worries they might have about their child.

We hope this article has given you some helpful insight into the ways you can look out for your student’s mental health when it comes to online learning. Senso recognise the importance of mental health, and the fact it can be more difficult to spot when learning is done at a distance.