Helping Students Stay Mentally Active, Informed, and Calm Amidst Coronavirus Outbreak


Ashley is the 10th grade Literature Teacher, 9/10 Network Content-lead, and New Teacher Mentor/Induction Lead at Mastery Charter School: Pickett Campus in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

For students, teachers, families, and the educational community, these are trying times. The lockdowns and quarantines in many states have thrown daily life for a loop, causing anxiety and stress. Amidst the chaos that uncertainty creates, it’s important to remain calm, and a sense of normalcy and structure can ease anxious feelings towards the unknown. A positive mindset can go a long way, and as a teacher, it’s part of my job to help keep students active and positive during the pandemic caused by COVID-19.

During the 2018/2019 school year, my school, Mastery Pickett, piloted the software platform Kickboard to amplify our positive school culture systems. An essence of Kickboard always existed at our network, but in the form of archaic paper (“demerit” and “merit”) cards. Cards were sometimes lost, left at home, and didn’t seem utilized by teachers as they should have been in our forever developing tech-savvy society. Enter Kickboard. 

Pickett’s goal was to create a 3-to-1 positivity ratio for each student-facing employee at our school. The brain is hard-wired to focus more strongly on the negative, so when working with children and teens it is critical to make sure that the positive is highlighted more than the negative.

Students lose Kickboard points for being late to class, for example, and gain Kickboard points for taking an active role in their learning (completing independent work, participating in class conversation, handing in exit tickets, to name a few). Students can use their Kickboard points for tangible rewards at school such as pizza parties, water ice, buying out of late detention, or brown-bag days where they can carry candy and snacks with them to each class. 

Now enter Coronavirus

To say that this virus has caused confusion and unease in the city of Philadelphia is an understatement. Many schools in Philadelphia were timid to shut-down at first because our schools provide meals to many students in need. Not to mention, many inner city students are not equipped for online learning due to a lack of internet access, a working computer, or both. How will our students continue to learn? What will they do all day when quarantined? What if their parents need to work, and they’re left alone all day with feelings of uncertainty and stress?

I had been using a classroom Instagram account all year (mcpc_behrens). It’s a technological world, and my students are technologically savvy individuals; as a teacher, it’s important to appropriately stay up with the times and adapt to our students. 

The page exists for shout outs, homework assignment reminders, growth mindset positivity, and engaging kids in quick academic questions in exchange for Kickboard points. Questions ranged from check-ins around what we are learning in class to posting a Jeopardy question that relates to our curriculum. 

When Coronavirus hit, my Instagram account was flooded with curious students: 

  • “How do I turn in my essay?” 
  • “Do you know how the whole Benchmark thing will go?” 
  • “Do we have online school?” 
  • “Where is our work?” 

Clearly students were stressed, but at the same time eager to get back to the routine of learning. 

Students seemed to be missing that daily routine school brings and the familiar faces of their school staff. I decided to hit Instagram harder than ever, utilizing Kickboard points as a way to maintain engagement, positivity, and the normalcy of structure many kids would miss out on with their daily schedules askew. 

My Instagram posts are simple, asking questions that relate to the curriculum seen just before school closures occurred. Specifically, we were deep in a nonfiction unit discussing the rhetorical strategies of logos, ethos, and pathos; the first school closure posts for Kickboard points involved the student identifying the nonfiction rhetorical strategy leveraged most and why. 

Accurate answers received Kickboard points for “Pays attention,” “Seeks out additional knowledge” and “Takes active role in learning” because none of these tasks are mandatory, but simply a way to keep students’ brains working and feeling good about themselves academically. 

As the adage goes, this too shall pass, and in the meantime I want to stay positive with my students: utilizing Kickboard is an easy, tangible way to do that. One student aptly asked, “How will I use my Kickboard points?” To which I responded, “When we return to school!! Stock up now.”

During these uncertain times, many teachers want to keep in contact with their students not just for educational learning, but to also be a beacon of positivity, serenity, and normalcy. If your school uses Kickboard, I’d suggest keeping up with your use of it while schools are temporarily closed. 

Students can gain Kickboard points for things like:

  • Reaching out to check in about optional work (“Responsibility”)
  • Submitting any Home Academic Optional work provided by schools (“Cooperates”)
  • Showing you proof of community service during America’s time of need i.e. babysitting for the family, taking out trash for an elderly neighbor, etc. (“Offers to help somebody”)
  • Showing proof of completing additional work (“Seeks out additional knowledge”)

The options are endless! Get creative based on your students and spread positivity!


The views expressed on this personal networking site are my own personal opinions, and do not reflect the opinions of my employer, Mastery Schools.