Partner School Stories

The Strengths We Need to Connect During COVID

By Todd Kaiser

Working. Energizing. Listening. Teaching. And then, COVID.

Mid-March our world came crashing down as yours likely did too. Human connection is what drives most teachers. We as teachers can sometimes predict who will enter the education field. It is usually those kids who have had a teacher that has made a lasting impact on them. Our connection to our students is something that can only truly be measured over time. This time, it is different.

The glitz and glamour are nowhere to be found right now in the world of teaching, if there ever was such a description. We entered this profession to help children become better: better students, better friends, better teammates, and better prepared for life when they leave our classroom. Our advanced degrees did not prepare us for this time.

Our regular day of school consists of a long list of tasks from A to Z that you likely would stop reading at about E. Let’s talk about the most important job that we have and that is our need to connect with our students. Each day we look to better understand each student in order to strengthen our relationship with them. One way we can do this is to better understand the strengths within each student. We often have natural connections to students based on hobbies or interests, but it takes a deeper understanding of other people to learn about another’s strengths like integrity, perseverance, or forgiveness. The connections aren’t built overnight and sometimes take weeks or months to understand.

As we approached mid-March, many teachers were finally solving each student’s code and character. The question now rests in how can we continue to foster that relationship and stay connected with our students the way we were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Google meet, Zoom, emails, newsletters, Seesaw and other online learning platforms can help connect, but how can we share our strengths with others and learn about the strengths of others? How can we build high quality connections with our students so they feel supported during this often isolated time?

Through The Positivity Project, we can continue right where we left off in March. Google classroom has been an easy way to share the daily messages of character strength development with my students. Sometimes we watch videos about a strength and answer questions based on the video and other days we do some reflecting about how the strength can help us face the current struggles that COVID-19 and distance learning has presented. The students have enjoyed being able to communicate and share about themselves and how these strengths have helped them during this time.

Teacher resilience through this time is an essential component to student success. How do you face or handle the struggles of being a teacher right now? How do you show up each day knowing your kids are relying on your smile and energy to brighten their day? One idea to to consider is focusing on your own top character strengths. It is unlikely that these have changed since distance learning began. Your kids probably remember their first day in the classroom with you in September like it was yesterday. What character strengths did you display then? How could those same character strengths get you through some of your most challenging days during this pandemic?

As Dr. Chris Peterson said best, Other People Matter. The process of building your own strengths takes time and self-reflection. Your top strengths are clearly visible in you regularly in what you do when you are at your best. What will you do to make sure you are at your best for those you surround yourself with during COVID? Give this a try…Focus on your strengths, “live” the Other People Matter mindset and help others share their top strengths.

Todd Kaiser
Proud husband, dad, teacher and coach just trying to make a difference each day.