Huiney’s garden during the quarantine experience.
My name is Huiney Xu and I am a Mandarin teacher at The American Embassy School (AES) in New Delhi. For over a year of my life, I have been in quarantine and isolated from friends and family. Covid-19 has brought many challenges to people around the globe. Depending on where you are currently living, you may still be coping with a lockdown. You may be contemplating after many months of isolation, how you should cope and manage your current and continuing life situation. It may be quite difficult not being able to go outside and see those people and places, and experience all the invigorating activities that being outdoors has to offer. Being inside for an extended period of time can be a trying time for everyone and a time where people and children are prone to conflict. Tensions and emotions may run high and a sense of not feeling comfortable may be inevitable. It is essential to encourage alone time for everyone, as well as maintaining a balance of saying connected.
Teachers and counselors may need to support students and families to achieve a healthy sense of emotional being. Students may struggle with behavior, focus, and feeling isolated from their peers. Teachers and counselors can team and partner to help students and families manage lockdowns and quarantines as well as using the time inside to their advantage. If a student's behavior becomes aggressive due to the situation, please seek out help from your schools' counselors. Students may be feeling cabin fever and be unable to get out of the house. If you are an educator with children, build in family time each and every day so children feel supported. Ensure they have structure through their day to minimize conflict. Devising a mini plan with them and helping them to find fun things to do around the house can help enormously.
If you are an educator who may still be working from home, it may feel daunting keeping your children engaged and keeping up with home-based learning. Consider reaching out to your principal or supervisor about flexible hours so that you and your spouse can take time out to be with your children. Establish a routine that helps you and your children have positive structure for the day. Allow for flexibility, as your child may want to do something else. For those teaching couples, aim to share the workload of homebased learning for your children.
Build in self-care and if you feel you need some time, take a break. As this is a very isolating time, looking after your wellbeing and emotional health is necessary. Mindfulness apps or a five-minute yoga or meditation session can be helpful, and the children can join in too. Create a suitable and comfortable workspace. It does not have to be its own room but just some space that works for you. With the abundance of technology, use this to your advantage to help keep your child occupied. If you have a garden, encourage them to get some fresh air too.
Most secondary and primary aged children may have set work provided by their school or they may be doing remote learning. It is important to ensure that they are not doing work all day and that they have plenty of breaks and time to relax in between. Becoming your child’s teacher is a daunting prospect. However, leaning on other parents who are going through similar experiences can be helpful. When planning the day, think about when they work best and work out a schedule with them. You may want to start the day with something active and then, perhaps, a break before on to the next activity. Some children thrive with a solid schedule whereas others prefer flexibility.
It is natural to feel anxious and worried about this ongoing global crisis. It is not something we have experienced before. It can be difficult having to stay strong for your children when you too are looking for support. If your children are feeling anxious and you want to speak to them about their feelings, using social stories can be helpful. Social stories are visual prompts that tell a story that is specific to their needs.
Tips for managing anxiety include:
- Limit the news or social media coverage. There is a lot of information, and it can be overwhelming.
- Connect with your friends and loved ones using video messaging, texting, and phone calls.
- Add self-care into your daily routine, whether it be a meditation, cooking, or whatever you find relaxing.
- Focus on your emotional and mental health. If you are feeling low, reach out for support.
- Keep busy during quarantine. Start a new hobby, make something, or even declutter.
- Share your coping skills with others including your children and students.
- Encourage your students to talk about their worries so they are not bottling things up.
- Create a solid routine that works for you and allow flexibility when needed.
- Exercise can be positive for mental health and do what you enjoy.
- If you enjoy cooking, get in the kitchen and experiment with the ingredients you have at home.
- Reach out to your support network online and perhaps start up a group video chat call once a day to minimize feeling alone.
While I was listening to Dr. Zhao Yong's Silver Lining for Learning Episodes last week, he mentioned the Chinese word for crisis is ??(wei ji),?(wei)means danger,?(ji)means opportunities. Every danger hides some opportunities. I couldn't agree more. This is a difficult time, but also an opportunity for us to learn and grow.
Mindset is quite important. I was not able to go back to Shanghai last summer and really hoped and prayed to go back this summer. In the beginning, I tried to get all the information about flights and requirements to go back to China. Then, I realized that I would not be able to go back home again because of the strict rules and lack of direct flights. However, since I cannot change it, I must accept it and do what I can do with the gift of time. I have stayed in India since last summer and enjoyed the experience. I quickly started to make my summer plans which in turn made me feel like I had much to look forward to and enjoy.
Do the things that you can control and make yourself feel better. I felt better by making a summer plan, so I did it. Nowadays, I am the only person at home, with no house helpers. Luckily, I love cooking. Unluckily, I don’t like washing dishes. So, I bought a dishwasher from Amazon. I felt this is one of the best choices that I have made this year. When the Covid situation became better, I wanted to go back to my gym training at my school gym where I felt safe and connected with school. I was still very careful to clean before and after using the machines and felt proud of myself for keeping healthy habits. During this time, we might face a lot of difficulties and challenges. It is important to try to find the solutions to make yourself feel better.
Making a schedule to plan days really helps. I do not like having a structured, detailed plan over the holiday. But also, I don’t want to spend the day doing nothing. A general daily schedule is suggested. Divide the day into three parts: morning, afternoon, and evening, plus a to-do list. One to two hours of exercise time in the morning gets the endorphins going and puts your mind in a positive mindset. The afternoon is long enough to read, do professional development learning, work, learn a new skill, and if time allows, complete house chores. I spend my evenings doing Chinese calligraphy and practice every day after dinner. After dinner time, I also enjoy spending time watching movies or talking to family and friends. Dividing the time into three parts and learning something new that I would not typically have time to accomplish, boosts my energy and enhances my emotional well-being.
Stay focused and be mindful. Self-discipline is so important, not only during online learning, but also in your daily life. Sometimes you don’t realize how much time you spend using your cell phone. Since I have a daily schedule, I try to stay focused, not using my cellphone while working on tasks and learning new things. As a Chinese teacher, I like to learn something related to Chinese culture and Chinese calligraphy is one of them. It brings me peace, joy, and serenity while practicing.
Learn something new. Calligraphy is something I have enjoyed doing since I was in middle school. However, I never dedicated much time or effort to advancing my skills and making progress. Now is a great opportunity for regular practice. I am also eager and excited to learn something else new, such as gardening. I started gardening last summer. This has become "therapy" for me. Last year, I was staying at home most of the time. Looking at the "little green babies" each morning. I even showed them to my students on ZOOM, something they looked forward to as part of our online lessons.
Sign-up for workshops. Currently most workshops are online and if this trend continues in the wake of Covid-19, it provides the opportunity to participate and engage in learning in many various genres of education. Online workshops are typically less expensive than in person workshops, which has given me the option of taking more classes and still staying within my professional development allowance.
Be positive, be flexible, be happy...portray what we tell our students. "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." - Wayne Dyer
By approaching my time in lockdown with a positive mind and devising a plan to demonstrate "self-care," I can truly say that I am still happy and feel gratitude for the opportunities I have been provided with many days, weeks, and months to myself and living alone in my apartment.
Huiney Xu is the MS/HS Mandarin Teacher American Embassy School, New Delhi.
Dr. Ben Fishman is the ES Counselor at Concordia International School Shanghai.
Ben Fishman - Ben8888868
Huiney Xu - Huiney