Anxiety is the leading mental health diagnosis amongst youth. Now, combine that with a pandemic and starting a school year filled with complex uncertainty, changes and concerns. How can educators effectively help students deal with anxiety amidst all that is transpiring? Educators from across the region came together recently, via zoom, to start to find these answers with anxiety expert, Kimberly Morrow, LCSW and founder of anxietytraining.com.
Anxiety can look like a number of things within the school setting. We may see refusal, inattention or restlessness, disruptive behaviors, frequent trips to the nurse/bathroom, attendance issues or resistance to socialize. The resistance to socialize, might include not turning on their camera during a remote lesson.
Morrow used a Chinese finger cuff to demonstrate the paradox of anxiety. Simply stated, the more that we resist the discomfort of anxiety, the more it persists. Traditionally, in good faith and trying to help, we, as educators, often do the exact opposite of what will help when trying to support a student struggling with anxiety. We might allow them to eat lunch in the classroom when they express discomfort about going to the cafeteria, we might avoid asking them to engage in class discussion due to social anxiety or we may make other, similar accommodations. Unfortunately, these actions will only reinforce the cycle within the brain that responds to danger. Notice the cycle in the diagram below.
One key perspective that Morrow ensured that the group of educators understood from the beginning was that the goal is not for the student to be symptom free, but to be effective in managing their symptoms. How can educators play a role in all of this?
1. Education about the brain and the function of the amygdala can be very powerful. The book “Hey, Warrior” by Karen Young, is a wonderful book for teaching children about the function of the amygdala and the feelings of worry and anxiety.
2. Do NOT reassure an anxious child by saying things like, “it will all be ok,” or “you don’t have anything to worry about,” or “you always do well on your tests.”
3. Help students to tolerate uncomfortable feelings. “I know you are feeling really worried right now, I wonder if a ‘mindful minute’ would help?” “What has helped you to stay in class when you have felt this way in the past? I am willing to help you find some solutions.”
4. Let them know you are on their team. Be a cheerleader for them as they tolerate anxious feelings.
5. Validate the child’s feelings and help them to identify what the feeling is.
If you are interested in learning more, please reach out to Community Schools (Katie Mendell) or visit register.caboces.org for upcoming opportunities. Morrow will return to work with the region, via zoom, again on October 30th, for the session, “Living Well as a Teacher.”
By: Katie Mendell, CA BOCES Community Schools
I am sure you will not be surprised to hear that Microsoft Teams is the learning management system (LMS) of choice for nearly every CA BOCES component school district with the exception of very few. Teams is a dynamic application that allows educators to work productively in a digital environment.
Want a platform that can monitor student participation? Teams Insights has at-a-glance data. Need to video conference with one student, groups of students, colleagues, parents or guardians, or other stakeholders? Teams meetings “include audio, video, and screen sharing,” and “they're one of the key ways to collaborate in Teams.” Want students to submit their work but you struggle to store and keep track of physical papers? Teams Assignments are the solution you need. Whatever the problem may be, it is likely that a solution can be found in Teams.
Because Teams is so robust, it can also stir up strong reservations for educators who either struggle with integrating technology or those who need a simpler tool for their students. So if you are in one of these or similar categories, what do you do now that our school districts, for the most part, have gone all-in with Microsoft Teams? Microsoft still might have a solution for you.
Microsoft SharePointWhen you find that you are no longer struggling to keep your head above water in the midst of a pandemic trying to simultaneously teach students in your classroom and others at home, then I would strongly recommend exploring some of the other applications available through your Microsoft 365 account. My first recommendation for those of you seeking an alternative to Teams would be to spend some time in SharePoint. You can find this app by selecting the SharePoint icon (shown above) in your Microsoft 365 Home page.
SharePoint is the service that supports the other Microsoft applications. This is why you’ll see “sharepoint.com” in the URL when you share a file from your OneDrive (go try it if you haven’t seen this before). Another way to think of SharePoint is that it is a no-code, web-design tool. For example, the 3 Tools to Improve Results site was designed to replace the NYS Assessment Items OneNote file and allows members of the site to seamlessly transition from released assessment items to benchmark assessments to data analysis documents without the sync errors and delays that can often come with OneNote.
Also built on SharePoint, the Drone Education site was built with two objectives in mind: (1) to provide resources for educators seeking Part 107 Remote Pilot Certification and (2) to provide drone labs that can be utilized to teach content learning standards.
Once you are signed into SharePoint, you can create a new site by selecting the + in the upper left-hand corner of the page and then navigating through the prompts to get started.
After you pick an initial theme, you can start building your site by adding elements anywhere you find a +, or you can select the ⚙️ in the upper right-hand corner near your Microsoft 365 account initials and choose one of the options such as “Change the look” to get the theme that works best for you.
To make your site work best for you and your students, you can add a variety of media to your pages such as text, pictures, embedded videos, Microsoft Forms, and more. The best part is that your site will only include exactly what you want it to and nothing more (like that pesky Chat feature in Teams).
The biggest downside to SharePoint worth noting before you go exploring is the fact that SharePoint sites are designed to be used internally (i.e. users of the same Microsoft 365 tenant) as a means of security and protection. In order to enable access to guests such as parents, community stakeholders, or your friends at CA BOCES who may not have district accounts, you will need to get permission from your Microsoft 365 administrator who maintains the authority to change this setting.
For more help getting started with SharePoint sites, review Microsoft’s Create a Site in SharePoint resource or reach out to your friendly neighborhood CA BOCES coordinator.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
Student Programs has always inspired creative problem-solving, teamwork, deep thinking, and resilience. This year, more than ever, students, coaches, and the ISS team are challenged to apply these traits to achieve the impossible, virtually.
ArtsPower Theatre on Demand (CoSer 403) is available now through June 30, 2021
APTOD virtually brings teachers and students Core Curriculum-based, multiple-lesson courses built around musical theatre productions. Designed to promote learning in the performing arts, language arts, and character education, these courses feature full-length (55 minute) musicals based on popular children’s books, plus
In addition, educators can contact Cece Fuoco (Cecelia_Fuoco@caboces.org) or Cathy Dunkleman (Catherine_Dunkleman@caboces.org) at Learning Resources to check out the books from the professional library or Interlibrary loan.
By: Jean Oliverio, CA BOCES Student Programs
Many beliefs in American society have become politicized and school environments naturally foster discussions around such issues. As a result, opinions are freely expressed regardless of depth of knowledge. Whether a conversation about free speech, the upcoming presidential election, or if vaccines are necessary, just about everyone is ready to express an opinion. Texts, statements, videos, photographs, and eyewitness accounts offer support for facts, yet constructing knowledge requires going beyond conjecturing for strengthening information literacy skills. Here are some basic tips:
In making these tips practical for students, consider applying information literacy skills to everyday life. Did someone send a mean text? Well, who is the author? Who is the intended audience? What was the purpose? A discussion can then take place on what friendship is and a possible remedy for the situation. Similarly, this conversation can take place when opinions are expressed about a sports team.
Challenge students to support their opinions with knowledge gained from several sources.
What is the evidence? What are some other viewpoints? What authority is contributing to your knowledge? Everyone has an opinion about something but whether they can use knowledge to defend that opinion is something else.
By: Cece Fuoco, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Have you seen students who struggle with the following...
● getting started on their work, even though directions were just explained
● turning in homework when it is completed and sitting in their book bag
● planning out their time appropriately for long term assignments
● Cramming materials in their desk or folder
These are tasks that require executive functioning skills. According to The National Center for Learning
Disabilities, “Executive function is a set of mental processes that helps us connect past experience with
present action. People use it to perform activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details and managing time and space.” It is quite common to have a deficit in one or more of the following skill areas: time management, task initiation, planning/prioritizing, impulse control, organization, emotional control, flexibility, working memory, and self-monitoring.
These deficits can be heightened when a student has a disability or as a child progresses in school and academic demands become too grueling. Luckily there are many strategies that can help improve or eliminate deficits and set students up for long term success. The visual below shows an example of what a deficit in impulse control could look like in the classroom and strategies that could help eliminate those issues.
When determining which strategies to implement, it is important to personalize them to the needs of the
student. We all have strategies that work for us when tackling tasks. For example, many of us prefer a paper calendar to keep track of appointments or to-do’s while electronic calendars work better for others. You may prefer to take deep belly breaths to destress while others benefit from a quick walk. Students are no different and will need strategies personalized for them and to meet their unique needs. To find a strategy that works best for your student, begin by establishing a positive relationship, trying an approach that is age appropriate and seeking student feedback. In addition, strategies should be modeled, practiced and scaffolded by the adult until the student can be independent with the approach.
As we dive into the 2020-2021 school year and contemplate how to best support learning whether brick, click or hybrid, remember to give thoughts to how explicit instruction on personalized strategies can improve executive functioning skills and set your students up for a LIFETIME of success.
For additional information on Executive Function or to set up a zoom training for your staff, please reach out to Tessa Levitt or Jessica Rose.
By: Jessica Rose and Tessa Levitt, CA BOCES Professional Development