Teachers, students and parents are adjusting to a temporary “new normal” as classes have gone online. Sousan Arafeh, associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies, has outlined some helpful hints for high school and college students, as well as their parents and teachers/professors.
“Attending (and teaching) class online by video is very different from being in a physical classroom,” Arafeh said. “With the amount of change that is going on, it is important to be realistic and gentle with ourselves and each other. Remember that things are not normal right now. But this is an opportunity to learn to live in new ways. Be open, flexible and creative. Embrace change and see where it takes you.”
*Reach out and connect with your teachers/professors. Believe it or not, they REALLY miss you. While schooling from “home” has made it possible for many to have more flexible time, your teachers and professors are experiencing great change and loss. They miss being with you in class and, like you, they feel more isolated than usual. Do your school work, but also take a moment to reach out to your teacher and connect about the class. Your teacher/professor will appreciate it and you both will feel more connected to each other and the work.
*Reach out and connect with your fellow students. Believe it or not, they REALLY miss you, too. Now that you no longer see each other in class, you may want to talk about the classwork or plan time to study together. Using Teams, WebEx or other platforms, it is possible to meet in groups and share your screens to collaborate and study.
*Use your time for school wisely so you can maximize time with friends and family or for new interests. If possible, schedule yourself so you are focused on one thing at a time. One of the hardest aspects of working from home is that there are many distractions. Make a schedule. Work the schedule. Take your scheduled time to eat, exercise and have fun. Repeat.
*Find substitutes for what you can’t do right now. Many students have lost important parts of their lives and identities. Athletics and the performing arts are two areas where this is very evident. Some students also had summer activities cancelled. These disappointments have both a physical and psychological impact. Talk about these losses with your friends, family, coaches and teammates. Motivate each other to keep honing your skills. Use online resources to guide and pace yourself. Consider new types of training that will keep you in shape.
*Congratulate yourself for a job well done. The past month has been a whirlwind of distressing information, multiple directives, and stressful retooling. During this time you have probably learned more about distance learning than ever and you have watched yourself rise to the occasion. Many of us have been working 12 to 14 hours a day to get our courses in place and support our students and parents. Take a moment. You have done good work and should be proud.
*Innovate and use available technology, but KISS (Keep It Simple Sweetheart). Our students and their families are likely more overwhelmed than us. In addition, they may not have strong technology and/or strong technology skills. In this context, less is more and simpler is better. Only use new technologies if they add to the content and its mastery. Talk with colleagues and IT personnel regarding best applications and best practices. Let your classes know you are in this together and that the learning curve may be long, but there is support.
*Connect with your students individually. One of my students shared that when her son’s teacher took the time to connect specifically with him by email, he felt more invested in the course and responsible for the work. Such connections are motivating for the student and for the teacher.
*Make clear messages of love and support your top priority. All of us have had the rug pulled out from under us. For students, their futures may seem irreparably torn apart. High schoolers have had to put college visits and applications on hold. College students ready to graduate have watched the bottom fall out of the job market. Parents and guardians, too, are facing significant uncertainty. It is important to love and support each other as much as possible. Let them know they are loved, valued and supported.
*If you figure out how to balance the “help but don’t help” student message, bottle your recipe! In general, Generation Zers prefer to do things themselves, rather than asking for help or being perceived as needing help. Yet, they often need and want help. It’s a mixed message that is hard to address. Try to keep an eye on what they are doing by being curious about their work, but not overbearing about what needs to be done. When you see that they could use some support, ask teachers or school helplines for help. Your student will probably accept it a bit begrudgingly, but will likely be grateful in the end.
*Let students do their work on their own time schedule. More and more students are getting assignments one or two weeks in advance or, in college, all assignments are on the syllabus. There are students who want to do a lot of work at one time so they can have large chunks of time to do what they want to do. Other students just want to do the work as it is required day to day. Encourage your students to find their own rhythm for the work they are supposed to do. At the same time, help them understand if their chosen schedule makes it hard on you or others and encourage compromise.
*Ask what your children are working on. When you ask your children about what they are working on, it gives them a chance to distill what they are doing into bites of information that you can understand. In addition to helping students reinforce their learning, it is a way to start conversations about interests and the world around us. While some students may find your questions irritating, most will appreciate and benefit from your curiosity and you will learn a lot, too!