KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This school year is unlike any seen before.
It's been a difficult time for many people, including educators.
"It's a really hard time," teacher LaKrystal McKnight said. "Teachers are working nonstop."
Educators are working around the clock trying to balance the unsteadiness of the last few months. It's something 11-year educator McKnight can relate to.
"I think the thing that's important to remember is that everybody wants the best for our kids," McKnight said. "Even though not all of our kids can be here in person at school, I am at school right now, you know, really late after school. Every teacher is working really hard to make sure that all of our kids are learning."
Several changes include shifts in entire lessons, teaching to an empty classroom and masks required in the hallways.
School districts across the metro have a number of different ways they're reopening: in-person, remote or hybrid.
"I think the struggle for all of us is we're all learning something new and we're learning together," McKnight said. "So I think the most important thing right now is just the grace, just giving everybody grace. We're all just... we're all just doing the best that we can. And I think that's the most important."
McKnight is a special education teacher in Johnson County.
"I work with lots of little friends who need a lot of redirection. You get a lot of opportunities to practice. They need a lot more support than some of their classmates, so it's even harder for those kids to get learning at home. They're used to having additional support and so it's really tricky," McKnight said. "I wish I could see my kids every day, we're trying everything we can to see them. We've done special backpack and supply pickup for our kids."
As educators juggle the new school year, the Renew KC Counseling Center is seeing an increase in clients, including teachers.
"We have not had a decrease of clients since COVID started," Renew KC Counseling Center founder and licensed clinical professional counselor, Kori Hintz-Bohn said. "So even being a small business, there has been no shift in the amount of anxiety."
Here are a few methods for teachers who are trying to manage stress:
Turn off communication before bed
"So for example, from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day, you're not going to check email, voicemail," Hintz-Bohn said. "So that you fully unplug because you need time as a teacher to be able to fill your cup back up."
Practice self-care every day
"Even if it's just 20 minutes. So 20 minutes for you to sit outside and enjoy nature, 20 minutes for you to spend time with a loved one that you enjoy," Hintz-Bohn said. "Twenty minutes for you to journal, read a book, take a hot bath. They may feel like frivolous things to do, but you absolutely, in the midst of a severe stress, need to intentionally do something in line with your values that fill your cup."
Practice the four square breathing method
"You breathe through your nose for a count of four, drawing a square and then you breathe out your mouth for the count of four," Hintz-Bohn said. "Breathe in through your nose for the count of four, and breathe out through your mouth for the count of four. And if you do that six to eight times, it literally does calm down your body, calm your anxiety and can be really, really effective in the midst of your huge stress, extra stress."
Have three to five "Band Aids"
"What Band-Aids are, are safe people that you can vent to that you could share your victory," Hintz-Bohn said. "So three to five people who are safe, who aren't going to tell you what you should have done or could have done, or give you advice, but instead they just listen and validate what you feel. You could have so much relief not feeling alone and having someone that you can talk to."
For McKnight, she said she enjoys exercising and playing sand volleyball to help de-stress. She also leads a wellness team at her school as a way for staff and teachers to have fun and relax.
McKnight said it's been critical and uplifting having a supportive and encouraging principal during this time.
The Renew KC Counseling Center has a list of free tips specifically for teachers on its Facebook page.
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