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Back to School in 2020

I was recently having a conversation with a few of my friends who happen to all be teachers. I asked them what the plan was for them going back to school. They continued to explain to me what their schools are doing, as each school has a different going back to school plan. Some are staying online, some are having a hybrid schedule, some are in person 100% of the time, some are requiring masks, and some are strongly recommending masks. I ended our conversation by saying, “Wow. I definitely will be thinking of you all the next few months.”

We know that the mental health needs of students have always been important, and they will continue to be as we start a new school year. But you know who else’s mental health is going to be really important to talk about the next couple of months? Teachers. Administrators. Custodians. Librarians. Paraprofessionals. Counselors. Coaches. Bus drivers. Any individual who works in the schools – it is going to be critical that we address all of their mental health needs.

2020 has been a year of unknowns, and as school starts there will be additional unknowns. Many school staff already have so many questions, but the hard part is there are not too many answers to their questions. Knowing many school staff & teachers myself, I’m sure these questions revolve around the students they serve. That’s how teachers and school staff are. They are selfless individuals who care so much about their students. The thing is though, this year, and every year, it is going to be so important that school staff take care of themselves as well as their students. Self-care is not selfish.

So, teachers & school staff please make sure as school starts this year that you are looking out for your own mental health needs and the needs of your co-workers. Practice self-care in whatever ways work best for you. Take time to exercise, be outside in the fresh air, journal, read a book, grab a cup of coffee with a friend, whatever works best for you, be sure to do it. Think of when you’re on an airplane, they say be sure to put your oxygen masks on yourself first before anybody else. During this school year be sure to put your “oxygen mask” on first, so that you can teach & work with your students even better. And lastly, be sure to give yourself grace. This whole year has been uncharted territory for each and every person. It is okay if you stumble or fall. Give yourself the same grace you’d give your students or co-workers, pick yourself back up, and keep going. We are all in this together & don’t be afraid to reach out for help if it is becoming too difficult to cope with. There are resources and help is always available!

Katie Zimmerman, Project Coordinator for The Kim Foundation

Katie Zimmerman joined The Kim Foundation in June 2019. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies and Sociology from Central College in Pella, Iowa. During her time in college, she volunteered at many non-profit organizations and took multiple sociology classes which focused on mental health. Katie’s role at The Kim Foundation includes running the social media accounts, assisting in the Youth Advisory Council, and providing mental health awareness and education to the community through A Voice for Hope and Healing presentations.