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

(File Photo)
COVID-19: District of Kent responds to provincial health restrictions

CRCC limits schedule, Municipal Hall offers alternate services for those unable to wear masks

Google Maps screenshot taken at 7:06 a.m.
Early-morning crash on Highway 1 has morning commuters in gridlock

Westbound crash occurred in Langley, west of 264th Street; left lane blocked

The Small Works display features work from local artists on wood panels. Panels are available at Ranger Station Art Gallery (File Photo)
Small Works submission deadline approaching

Ranger Station Art Gallery seeks local artists for upcoming display

Signs up at Hope Secondary School inform visitors that the school is a closed campus during the coronavirus pandemic. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
Second COVID-19 exposure at Hope Secondary School

Fraser Health website lists exposure on Nov. 11 and 12

New Chilliwack Chief Ray Fust.
Chilliwack Chief Ray Fust in the mix for Swiss U20 roster spot

Fust is hoping to make the team that will compete in the World Junior Hockey Championships

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

(Black Press Media files)
B.C. to test emergency alert system on cell phones, TVs, radios on Wednesday

The alert is part of a twice yearly test of the national Alert Ready system

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Phillip Tallio was just 17 when he was convicted of murder in 1983 (file photo)
Miscarriage of justice before B.C. teen’s 1983 guilty plea in girl’s murder: lawyer

Tallio was 17 when he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of his 22-month-old cousin

This undated photo issued by the University of Oxford shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Monday Nov. 23, 2020, that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
VIDEO: How do the leading COVID vaccines differ? And what does that mean for Canada?

All three of the drug companies are incorporating novel techniques in developing their vaccines

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

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers at the project site in Kitimat. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
Forty-one positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak in Kitimat

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

7-year-old Mackenzie Hodge from Penticton sent a hand-written letter to premiere John Horgan asking if she’d be able to see her elf, Ralph under the new coronavirus restrictions. (John Horgan / Twitter)
Elf on the shelf an acceptable house guest, B.C. premier tells Penticton girl

A 7-year-old from Penticton penned a letter asking if she’d be allowed to see her elf this year

Most Read