I have heard the phrase “hope you are healthy and well” or “may you be healthy and well” a lot in the past few months. Once I got to thinking a little more about this particular phrase, it makes a lot of sense to me.
In these unprecedented times of COVID, many people are focusing (and rightfully so!) on staying physically healthy – not getting COVID or any other illnesses/ailments. However, truly ‘being well’ (or wellbeing) is much more than the physical health of your body. Wellbeing is connected to Indigenous ways of knowing and the Medicine Wheel, where one must balance physical, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual health.
The graphic above is one that I use with my Grade 1 students in Health and Social Studies to begin to explore this holistic mindset of wellbeing. If we only tend to our physical health, our wheel will be lopsided and only 1/4 full.
During this global pandemic, it is essential that we continue to focus not only on being healthy, but also being ‘well,’ by tending to the other areas of wellbeing, not just physical health.
It is my hope for my friends, family, students, community (and the world as a whole) that we continue to not only be healthy, but also be well. I even made the conscious decision to sign my Christmas cards with wishes that loved ones be ‘healthy and well’ throughout the holiday season and beyond.
I’m curious what things you have been doing during the pandemic to ensure that your holistic wellbeing is a priority? What specific activities do you do to focus on each of the 4 areas?
This school year is shaping up to be full of ‘new’ things: new surprises, new learning, new challenges, new adventures!
I am grateful for all of the ‘newness:’ it is helping me grow as a teacher and keeps things from feeling stagnant. Although being in my fifth year of teaching may not seem like very far along in my career, I have now taught the same grade levels for several years in a row and it has produced both a sense of comfort and repetition. While it’s nice to know the curriculum and feel confident in what I am teaching, it’s also refreshing to add some new things to the mix to keep things exciting. I also want to avoid ever feeling that I’ve reached the peak of my teaching practice; learning and trying out new things ensures that I continue to grow as an educator.
In essence, as I gain more experience as a teacher, I also want to ensure that I am continually engaging in new experiences.
Here are a few of the new things that are expanding my horizons this year:
New Class Pet
Our Pre-K classroom has always had a large (6 feet x 3 feet x 2 feet large!) tank in it. Before this year, it was always home to various goldfish. When schools closed in March, we had to rehome our goldfish, as no one was going to be in the building to take care of them. This provided an opportunity for our Pre-K classroom to get a new pet, and luckily my EA was gung-ho to try out our newest critter…
a bearded dragon!
“Sandy” (named after the Great Sandy Desert in Australia, the native home to bearded dragons) has been an amazing addition to our class! While the fish provided a calming environment to look at, Sandy is teaching our students so many new things about pet care that they simply didn’t experience with fish. We are keeping a class book about Sandy as a living documentation piece, which continually grows as we learn more.
Learning to care for an exotic reptile baby has been a fascinating learning experience for me too. I have learned a lot about what reptile care entails, and have also become proficient at maintaining our live insects that provide Sandy’s diet.
2. New Students
This title may seem a bit silly, as most teachers get new students every year. In Pre-K, however, I have the unique privilege to teach many of the same students 2 years in a row (when they attend as 3 and 4 year olds in consecutive years). This year, however, I’ve had my smallest number of returning 4 year old students, with only one. I usually rely on my ‘returners’ to help our new students (3 year olds or newly enrolled 4 year olds) learn the routines of our day-to-day classroom life, and this was not possible this year, as virtually all of my students were learning about life in Pre-K for the first time! In addition, this is also the largest number of 3 year olds that I’ve ever had in my class in one year.
I was initially worried that this year would have to look a lot different, but I have to say that my group of Pre-K students has continually surprised me with how well they’ve learned our classroom routines. They are a bright, eager-to-learn group of kids that I am feeling so blessed to teach!
3. New COVIDRestrictions and Protocols
This was one that I was worried about all summer, and had me feeling apprehensive and reluctant to return to school this fall. I have to say, though, that this new ‘way of life’ in schools has provided a lot of new learning and growth for me as a teacher. I have had to tweak many routines and learning experiences for my students, but I am focusing on the new opportunities this has provided, rather than the limitations.
There is a common understanding in the teaching world that you only have to do your first year once, and then it’s over with and all up from there. This year, in many ways, has made my fifth year of teaching feel a lot like my first, with lots of unknown and learning on the fly. While this can be overwhelming, disconcerting, and frustrating at times, I choose to embrace the great things about the first year of teaching: the novelty of learning things for the first time, the thrill of taking risks and trying something new, and the joy of seeing the journey unfold.
What is new for you this school year?
What are the new opportunities that COVID protocols have created for your classroom?