• Michelle Bickhaus

Maintaining a Grip in the Midst of a Pandemic - Part 1

Updated: Jun 4

This has really been something! I left school for spring break and haven’t been back - it’s now May 26th!


No college course, no conference, no workshop, no journal article…nothing ever mentioned how to teach during a pandemic.


But here we all are muddling through the uncertainty.

As far as I can see, there are no answers. We’ve seen projections and models about the virus and by the time those are published, variables have changed and new projections are calculated. 

We are an unending font of questions.

When will we return to the classroom? What will our schedule be like when we return? Will our numbers of students be altered? How do we distance in the classroom? Will we have choir? What about PE? Is it safe for students to eat in the cafeteria? Are my students safe here? Are my students safe at home? Are my students unsupervised at home while parents work? Are my students falling behind? Will my students get sick? Will I get sick? Will I take something home to my family? Will I spread the virus to my students? My colleagues? 

And those are the easy questions!

How do we navigate this?

Well I have all the answers! Ha! I kid! 


Honestly, though, when I feel like things are out of control I sit back and reflect on the fact that so many of our students experience that out-of-control feeling on an all too consistent basis. Their lives ARE out of control Their emotions ARE out of control. Their bodies’ reactions ARE out of control. And this out-of-control sensation is a response to their trauma. 


After this reflection I dig down and try to regain some sense of control over my work life because in order to function optimally for my kids, I need to function…well…optimally. In other words, I need to take care of my own well being so that I can do my best for my students. 


One of the best ways to do this is to make a plan for some part of the future.  


We can’t avoid the fact that many things in our lives are our of control. We shouldn’t ever make the mistake of believing that we are in control of life. There. Got it? We are not in control of life or this world. 


The one thing over which we do have control is our response to events. When we take control of our reaction it gives us a sense of power and balance, even exuberance. In this case, I am going to suggest a plan for making your classroom space more trauma-sensitive. Create this one short-term goal and follow through.


Now hear me out!  I am NOT going to take you through some over-the-top classroom makeover event. I am not going to lead you through two weeks of an arduous painting, reflooring, bookcase-building extravaganza that will leave you in debt and bereft of the energy to actually start the 20-21 academic year. 


I am talking about a manageable yet effective reformation of an area of your room that will make you breathe a lovely feeling of accomplishment and weightlessness. This will give you a feeling of power and control because you have mastered your response to otherwise out-of-control events.


We’ll break this goal down into steps and step one begins this week. This is the first in a five-part series designed with a dual purpose: 1. Create a sense of power by focusing on one goal. 2. Create a more trauma-sensitive classroom environment. 


Week One is the reflection and analysis step and involves the following:


Week One

Sit in your classroom quietly for 5-10 minutes and reflect on your impressions.  Try to see the space through fresh eyes. Don’t play any music. Don’t have interactions with anyone. Try to keep the focus solely on the room or area itself.


Write the responses to the following in a notebook.  

1. What are your senses taking in? What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you see? What do you feel? I pray you’re not tasting anything. 

2. What is the impression when you enter the space? 

3. What is the impression when you leave the space?

4. What is the impression  when you remember being there?

5. What are your feelings about returning to the space?


Next time we’ll take step two in our plan. For now enjoy the process and look forward to achieving this goal and the feelings of empowerment that go along with reaching setting and reaching a goal.


Fellow teachers, I love you and I believe in you! 

 © 2017 Teaching Troubled Hearts, Chaddock Quincy, IL