Distance learning is a way of life for more than 56 million kids in the U.S. right now. With the ongoing concern, it looks like this will be the new norm for the rest of the school year in a lot of places around the US.
This is a huge change, not just for students, but also for their families, the community, and more than 3 million educators. All of this change can bring stress, anxiety, and uncertainty.
Related: 6 fun resources for online learning
However, it doesn’t have to define who we are as a society. I’ve curated and created 6 simple steps to help you create a sense of calm and certainty in distance learning, and in these uncertain times, while making learning fun again for you and your families.
1. Be present and available: Distance learning is a whole new concept for everyone. One way to help is to make yourself available to the kids and parents. This doesn’t mean you’re at their beck and call.
However, try these ideas: hold office hours, host group video chats, and meet with students one on one. All we are asking is for you to be there for them. It’s not enough to physically be there though. You have to remember that while you are there, be there. Be present. Listen, respond, engage, laugh, and ask questions. Let them know you are here for them.
2. Communicate clearly (and often enough): Good communication is said to be the bridge between confusion and clarity. Decide what form of communication is best for your students and parents. Then use it. There is a balance between how much and how often. The last part of this strategy is so important. One way to ensure you are meeting your students’ and parents’ needs is to send out a survey asking about your communication.
3. Set expectations: Just like in your physical classroom, your online classroom must have expectations. Everyone needs to know and understand the expectations for being a part of the distance learning community. They need to know what is expected while in group calls, when completing work, where to find work, and how to communicate with you. Set these expectations early and revisit them as needed.
4. Create engaging activities: Your students are used to being engaged, whether by you, their friends, the assignment, or the birds outside (hopefully not the birds outside, or that’s a totally different conversation). Online learning is no different. Create lessons and activities that make them so engaged they don’t notice the birds outside. There are plenty of resources online that can help with this.
5. Allow for asynchronous learning: Our kids and parents are very busy. Some kids can work all day, while others can only work in the evening. Some have technology to use, while others do not. Accessibility is a big deal. Help your students and parents understand that they don’t have to be online at every single meeting. Yes, that connection is important, but the stress of trying to make that happen can be overwhelming for some parents. Make sure some, if not all, of your lessons/meetings/assignments are available to read, watch, and answer whenever they have time.
6. Plan your day: This is by far one of the most important strategies. Start your day with a plan in mind. Write it down. Post it up. Do whatever you need to do to make sure you have a plan for your day. Set your physical space up in a way that allows you to work from home. Designate a space that is for teaching, not sleeping. Plan your way to a successful day.
Children have full-time jobs. Their most important job is play. Never forget that these parents have been thrust into the role of substitute teacher with little to no training and just as little time to devote to it.
So, make sure your kids and parents are enjoying their distance learning and connecting with you and the other kids in any way that you can.