Supporting students in their return to the classroom
Watching Vista students return to campus and abide by mask guidelines and other safety protocols inspires a lot of confidence in the return to in-person learning. Witnessing this is a sight that I wish more parents had the opportunity to see as I could imagine it would ease the uncertainty felt by so many.
Wondering how parents could support students in this transition, I reached out to our Outpatient Services SBS Program Manager, Stephanie Gregory, to ask for suggestions. Stephanie shares, “it is so important to remind yourself and your child that it is okay to feel overwhelmed during this time.” Stephanie brings up an interesting point that although most kids love being back in school in-person and with their classmates, it is also overwhelming socially after spending such a long amount of time at home with just a parent or parents. Stephanie points out, “there is a lot of emotions for the kids to deal with, even within the positive aspects of being back at school. That’s on top of the unknown and the testing and contact tracing that LAUSD is doing so they never know when they could be quarantined, so that is a lot of unsettling unknowns for kids. Fortunately, all of the mental health support systems in place at school is very valuable.”
To start the school year successfully, Vista’s school-based clinicians recommend students return to a more structured sleep schedule. As Stephanie points out, “some students may have experienced sleep irregularities during remote learning, but returning to an 8-9 hour sleep schedule could help students recalibrate.”
Another way school-based clinicians have prepared students is by having them practice visualization techniques. This practice allows students to picture themselves walking onto campus, going into their classrooms, sitting down to have lunch, etc. Teaching simple breathing exercises has also empowered students who experience anxiety or stress throughout the day. Stephanie describes a two-breath technique that school base clinicians have shared with parents and teachers, “imagine breathing in a bouquet through your nose and then exhaling through your mouth as if you are blowing out candles.” Stephanie offers parents this final piece of advice. “Be straightforward about what you know and what you do not know. Transitions can feel overwhelming, and that’s okay to acknowledge. Assuring students have a reliable support system at school will go a long way in easing their transition back.”
On the subject of transitions and school, I am pleased to announce our new Vista School Director, Dr. Jessica Hutcheson, Ed.D. The Vista school has always centered itself around building solid relationships with both our students and amongst staff. Dr. Hutcheson hopes to build upon that strength by bringing her experience in executive coaching, program development, and post-secondary education to the Vista School. What appeals to our new Director about her role is the unique opportunities it presents to our students. “Education is the key to opening new doors for students, and we have a dedicated staff intent on exploring creative pathways to closing the education gap and setting them up for excellence.” Expanding the Vista school’s vocation, mentoring, and leadership development programs are just some of Dr. Hutcheson’s top priorities. Her experience as a consultant for various non-profits executive directors, district-level policymakers, and education leaders will be instrumental in raising the bar on how we support our students both in and outside of the classroom. “I am thrilled to find innovative, new ways to build camaraderie amongst our staff while expanding the educational opportunities we provide to our students.”
To close transitions can feel scary. Yes, sometimes, but the simple act of acknowledging that challenge can go a long way in overcoming it. I am confident that with the addition of Dr. Jessica Hutcheson and the support of Ms. Stephanie Gregory and her team, we can help smooth out any wrinkles change brings.