Summer break has finally arrived! As teachers pack up their virtual and physical classrooms and students embark on a long-awaited break, we’re taking a moment at GiveThx to reflect.
This year, schools radically shifted to new teaching and learning models. So did GiveThx. We asked ourselves: how do we adapt to meet the urgency of the moment? Read below to learn more about what we did, what we learned, and how we made an impact.
Three years ago, we started GiveThx amidst a rising crisis in students' mental health and high rates of trauma experienced disproportionately by low-income students and students of color. COVID-19 only exacerbated these trends. From the very start of the pandemic, we saw schools struggling to address students’ declining sense of connection and wellbeing. So we launched a series of changes:
You know the safety video you watch before you fly a plane? The one that says in case of an emergency, put on your oxygen mask before helping others... because you can’t help others well without making sure you’re okay first. Well, the same goes for teachers. That became even clearer this year.
Students experienced profound rates of disconnection and isolation amidst the pandemic. But so did teachers. They struggled to adjust to new ways of teaching— to not only cope with their own loss and trauma, but also the secondary trauma of their students. And it wasn’t just teachers. It was the whole learning community: the office manager supplying laptops, the nurse doing contract tracing, and the principal trying to help the school adjust.
Staff needed concrete, safe, and effective ways to build and maintain healthy relationships from a distance. When they used the GiveThx program not just with their students, but amongst themselves, they felt better. Their relationships with students improved, improving students’ performance in turn. Despite the distance, staff’s sense of connection with their students and colleagues increased.
Students and staff realized that their peers were one of their most untapped resources to be resilient. GiveThx helped them access that power.
We’re taking our learnings with us to the next school year. We know what we’re up against: dual learning and mental health crises. We will support schools to address these challenges with a new curriculum, expanded professional development modules, and powerful administrator software tools. We will ground our work in equity, continuing to focus on high-potential, under- resourced communities. We will continue to design with and for students with traditionally marginalized voices, centering their experiences and needs in our work. Most important: will create inclusive learning communities where all staff and students feel appreciated, connected, and confident in who they are and what they can achieve.
Making our services free this year meant we could help more students and teachers in a time of crisis. But it also meant that if we want to continue this work—and double our impact—we need help building awareness and growing support.
That’s where you come in! Here are three ways you can help: