When we last spoke to Faculty of Education alumna Brae Clowes, her Professional Semester II had just been cut short as classes at All Saints High School in Calgary shifted online due to the spread of COVID-19.
After graduating in December 2020, Brae quickly moved into the online teaching space herself, and is now working as a Physical Education and Health teacher for the Hub Online Learning program through the Calgary Board of Education.
Despite the obstacles involved in teaching classes virtually, Brae has embraced the challenge. We caught up again with Brae to find out how her teaching experience and personal sense of wellness and gratitude has changed since the beginning of the pandemic over a year ago.
Q. Has what contributes to your personal sense of wellness changed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic?
It’s honestly been a rollercoaster. But I think overall my personal sense of wellness is pretty much the same as before. I’m just trying to always look on the positive side of things, that’s been my goal all throughout COVID.
My personal sense of wellness is very much dependent on the outdoors, going for long walks, and heading to the mountains. But if I can’t do those types of things and I’m just stuck inside, I feel like I’m in a birdcage especially since we are essentially still in a lockdown in Calgary."
I try to relate my personal sense of wellness to my students, and I highly encourage them to go outside, and that even if they don’t want to, they should try. At the age group I’m teaching, just the thought of going outside is hard to push for some kids, but I think encouraging them to go outside while focusing on the positive side of their situation can help them through that process since a lot of them are in a negative mindset right now.
Q. Has how you have been incorporating wellness into your online teaching changed since the beginning of the pandemic? How have the students responded to these classes?
There’s definitely this feeling of just trying to get the students through the school year, but there was this quote I really enjoyed from a teacher at my school, where she said: “We have to switch from surviving to thriving”.
Right now we are in this constant place of trying to get past COVID, but it’s not a few months anymore, it’s been over a year, and we need to figure out ways to start thriving in the reality that we have. That’s definitely something I’ve been trying to focus on with my students.
If the students aren’t reaching their personal wellness, they aren’t going to learn. So I’m trying to give them a toolbox of ways to improve that wellness. I provide them with resources to improve their mental, physical, and spiritual state."
And I tell them if they aren’t trying to do something different they are just going to be in the same place, so it’s encouraging them to take the risk and try different things and hope that their health and well-being improves.
In terms of the response from the students, it is definitely a mix. These students have been online for a year, and it's definitely taking its toll on the kids. Some of them are just done, even just with schoolwork in general. But others are definitely finding it beneficial, and are using the tools I’m giving them. They are asking more questions, and doing the challenges and the tasks to promote their own wellness.
Q. What are you most excited for when you are once again able to teach in-person classes?
The social interaction, just actually being able to see the students in-person, that is definitely what I’m looking forward to the most. Teaching online is hard because you can’t exactly nudge them and help them personally with the assignment, instead it is this back and forth communication and if they don’t reply to you by email, or if the parents don’t pick up the phone, there is only so much you can do.
But despite that, I feel like I’ve built such deep connections with my students because the kids are more willing to open up and talk about themselves because it is online. Unfortunately a lot of kids still aren’t allowed to leave their houses to see their friends, so I’ve been doing a lot of one-on-one meetings and check-ins with my students since I am one of the main people that they can talk to on a regular basis. But I am definitely most excited to see the students again and get to have that interaction in-person.
Q. At this moment in time, what are the things you are grateful for?
I would say I'm most thankful for my family right now. We’ve been through a lot since the pandemic started, but we’ve just come closer together because of all the challenges we’ve faced in the last year.
Aside from family, I would definitely say my students. I can’t even express how happy they make me. I’m so excited to get on and teach everyday, and as much as I am teaching them they are also teaching me at the same time. So I am very grateful for my students as well.
Writer: CJ Tuff
Photo: Samantha Ramsay
Related story links to the Faculty of Education Wellness + Gratitude series:
• The Faculty of Education WELLNESS INITIATIVE: Supporting a Focus on Health and Well-Being
• The Link Between Gratitude and Wellness: Dr. Robin Bright
Faculty of Education Wellness Initiative series:
• Wellness is Keeping Active, Both Mentally and Physically, Brae Clowes
• Wellness is The Joy of Cooking: Dr. Jeffrey MacCormack
• Wellness is Feeling Productive: Sally Leung (BA/BEd '17)
• Wellness is About Writing: Teri Hartman (BA/BEd '02, current MEd student)
• Wellness is Spending Time Outdoors: Dana Visser
• Wellness is Stillness: Jane O'Dea (dean emerita)
• Wellness is Coping with Stress Through Art and Music: Jenn Pellerin
• Wellness During the COVID-19 Experience, PSII, and Staying Connected: Kelsey Shoults
• Wellness is Being in the Moment: Kenneth Oppel
• Wellness is About Having a Consistent Routine: Alex Funk (BEd '17)
• Wellness is Spiritual: David Slomp
• Wellness is Ranching: Danny Balderson
• Coping with COVID-19: Harnessing our Natural Stress Response
• Coping with COVID-19: Loneliness
• The Intersectionality of Faith, Mental Health and Wellness for Racialized Populations During the Pandemic
For more information please contact:
Communications, Dean's Office
Faculty of Education
University of Lethbridge
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