By Luci Englert McKean, Assistant Director of the NSRF

Just before NSRF started working-from home in March, I made a note in my “Blog post ideas” folder.  It said “Wilderness training and CFG work.”  Today, I can’t recall just what I was thinking, but holy cow, now that we’re all in COVID-Land and juggling Zoom meetings and classrooms, it certainly feels a bit like the Wilderness out there, doesn’t it?

(Definition from

By this definition, Critical Friends Group Coaches’ Training has clear parallels to Wilderness First Aid Training:

One might consider classroom teaching — especially in virtual or blended settings — to feel rather “remote.”  As we teach via our computer screens, we have few of our familiar surroundings at hand, everyone feels more isolated, and some of us have to live among “bears” (those who growl and eat our food when we haven’t hidden it away).  And even when you’re teaching in your classroom, teachers often feel isolated with their dilemmas, not comfortable letting their peers know they need help solving a problem or improving a piece of work.  Contrast this with the experience of connecting with our Critical Friends, whether they’re an established group or the individuals you can meet in one of our Micro-Trainings.  Participants consistently tell us what a relief it is to follow protocols and activities that help them feel more connected to one another, even among strangers, even across Zoom.  Let us help you feel less “remote” and help you coaches do the same.

“Medical emergencies” might relate to our Social and Emotional Learning and health. How are we taking care of ourselves in these stressful times?  NSRF has developed some new Feelings Activities to help us share virtually and relieve our stresses through speaking in community. Dozens of people have participated in these Micro-Trainings this summer, and we encourage them to carry those activities back into their school environments to help both students and adults express their feelings in a safe and healthy way.  Also, does your school have a plan for interacting with students whose caregivers or other family members catch the virus?  Have you thought about how to appropriately adapt classwork to their needs?  These are great questions to bring up in a Critical Friends Group if you have not received guidance from your administrators.

“Definitive medical care may be delayed.”  I wonder if you’ve come across class periods in which “curricula may be delayed” in order to take care of your students emotionally. A friend of mine is selling t-shirts to benefit her local food bank that say “Try softer.”  We’re so often encouraged to “Try harder” — for example, to create plans for teaching in-person AND teaching virtually AND teaching blended, all while continuing to care for your own health and household. So it’s a powerful lesson to remember that we’re all, more or less, traumatized by the circumstances around us, and “trying softer” may be precisely the learning that’s required in a given moment or hour.

Let’s remember that our Critical Friends may be crucial to all of us finding our way out of this Wilderness.

If you are a CFG Coach and are interested in an Experienced Coaches’ Training bringing you up-to-speed on how to use essential NSRF Protocols and Activities in virtual settings, contact us.

If you organize Professional Development for your school and would like to train a team virtually using NSRF Protocols and Activities created or adapted for virtual use, contact us.

If you are specifically interested in learning activities that can help your students (and colleagues) feel a stronger sense of Belonging, join one of our MicroCredential Trainings in Building Belonging here or here.  Future open MicroCredential Trainings will be listed on our Open Trainings page.

Last, if you can only eke out 90 minutes of time for a one-off Micro-Training, keep an eye on our Open Trainings page for options that we’re creating every month.

New Virtual Trainings for CFG Work