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Empowerment, Awareness, & Exploration: Helping Small Children Navigate the Pandemic at School

Kate Lilly, M.Ed, is a Learning Specialist at The Joy School, a school for kids with learning differences in the Montrose area of Houston. Kate began her 30th year of teaching in the middle of a pandemic, and it's already been a year unlike any other. Now that her 5- and 6-year-old students are back in person, here are some of Kate's tips on how teachers can support youngsters during the pandemic.


There is so much this year over which we have had little to no control. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless in this situation. Kate encouraged practitioners to help kids focus on what they can influence and control in their lives and empower them to take opportunities for growth and independence.

One area to explore is how a child can feel most comfortable at school. For instance, how many masks do they tend to go through in a day, and which ones are their favorites that fit best?

Kate shared that some of her typical methods for developing independence skills in kids aren't possible this year. Examples such as having them answer the classroom phone and making their way to the front desk to drop something off aren't available with COVID-19 safety precautions. "Still, we don't want to convey the message to kids that we don't trust them to do the right thing in a situation," explained Kate. So it's crucial to find ways for children to exercise their independence safely.

Here are some ideas to try:

Self help skills

Ownership of negative impacts such as getting others sick, internalizing, bullying/anxiety, etc. Children can understand that they don't want to be the cause of someone getting sick.


Realizing when mask gets wet

Hygiene, executive functions

Some students are hyper aware while some may be more oblivious. It's important to try and strike a balance.

Communication via body language and eye contact, verbal communication

Taking off masks to show facial expressions

Interpreting people's eyes and gaining emotion awareness

Explore options for yourself

Experience is gained through repetition, but many things are new

Try to build relationships and learn from others. This can be done without changing who you are as a teacher

Keeping a healthy mindset

Practice gratitude

Do something good for yourself each day

See friends and talk with others. Build a healthy support group for yourself

These are just a few things you can try to help navigate these interesting times in and out of the classroom.

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