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Part Three: Do’s and Don’ts of Back-to-School this Fall 2021

Tips and resources to help faculty, teachers, and students prepare for this unusual back-to-school season.

Whether in a private school or the NYC DOE…Students, teachers, and parents are impacted by the first few months of a new academic year. Some are experiencing typical back-to-school nerves versus more anxious concerns related to COVID-19, the Delta variant, vaccinations, and the potential for reinstatement of remote learning.

In Part One I discussed what you CAN and CANNOT expect this fall and in Part Two I discussed steps teachers and students can take to feel more prepared to tackle the school year ahead. In this final part, I share resources and steps teachers can take to build intentional relationships with their students.

My time in education and psychological services has put me at a unique intersection of academic performance and social-emotional wellbeing. Experience has taught me that relationships are everything! I have seen many student lives transformed by the presence of an encouraging, consistent, supportive adult..

I work in a unique school, an educational setting that is general education but offers two additional levels of support programs for students with attentional needs, learning disabilities, and/or executive function difficulties.

Things teachers can consider this fall when it comes to building intentional relationships with students

Stewart Learning “I C.A.R.E.” Model (Student Relationship Building)

However, in order to utilize the I. C.A.R.E. model, the educator’s cup needs to be full. You can’t pour out to your students if your stores are depleted. Here are a few ways faculty and teachers can manage their stress levels this year:

  1. Self-Reflection: Introspection is foundational to our overall well-being and health. Questions to ask yourself:

    1. What is one main goal for this week? (e.g. task to accomplish, a general mindset, begin or maintain a new habit, etc.)

    2. What are triggers that cause me to feel stressed or overwhelmed?

    3. What makes me feel content and at peace?

    4. Would I benefit from talking with someone? (e.g. friend, family member, mental health professional, etc.)

  2. Gratitude journaling (or apps) - We become what our minds dwell upon. Gratitude enables your brain to reframe and refocus on the positive aspects in your life, which should include both big and small areas, For example, I am grateful for the thoughtful note from a parent, having the opportunity to get coffee on the way to work, to laugh with a coworker, a good night’s sleep, etc.

  3. Self-care: Working in the helping professions usually draws individuals who are willing to sacrifice, put the needs of others above their own, and give of themselves on a daily basis. This means that they usually neglect themselves. There are many ways to improve self-care but let’s return to the basics (e.g. eating nutritious meals, getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and being physically active several days/week). I know that self-care is much easier said than done. Nonetheless, these areas of emotional and physical health are critical habits that we all need to continually solidify and improve.

  4. Make sure to pause: Take a few minutes every day to pause, reflect, or change your environment. Deep breathing, more specifically, diaphragmatic breathing is helpful for both young people and adults whenever they need to take a mindful moment to focus on stress reduction.

Implementing some of these strategies will help ensure a smoother transition as well as a productive, healthy, and successful school year for both students and educators.


For more information about relationship-centered schools, how to implement it, and create intentional relationships with your students, check out the Relationship-Centered Schools link or reach out to us for direct questions.

About the Author:

Dr. Noreen Stewart empowers young people to unlock their potential by overcoming their unique challenges. She is the founder and CEO of Stewart Learning Inc., a Senior Psychologist at Bay Ridge Prep in Brooklyn, NY, and an Adjunct Professor in NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. At BRP Dr. Stewart creates the academic mentoring course curriculum, counsels and teaches students daily with learning and attentional difficulties within a general education school. At NYU, she teaches graduate students earning advanced degrees in counseling. Dr. Stewart provides workshops for mentors, students, educators, and parents. She specializes in equipping learning and support environments (e.g. schools, mentoring programs, professional certification organizations, etc.) with the training needed to prepare students for life during and after high school.


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