Social time is important for students, and it's especially important during a pandemic--here's how to foster a healthy social environment online

3 ways to foster a positive social environment online

Social time is important for students, and it's especially important during a pandemic--here's how to foster a healthy social environment online

So how do you start your path on the road to success? By providing a safe, open space, giving students a voice, and uniting students with a common interest, you can create an unparalleled school environment that lays a solid foundation for their growth.

1. Create a safe, open space

With all the changes we’re seeing this year, some students may be struggling to adapt. That’s why they need to know that they have a safe, open space where they can confide in others. This is something their school can and should offer.

One thing my school has implemented is small group circles, where participants can openly share their struggles and triumphs in a judgment-free zone. It provides a space for the community to come together to support one another as a cohesive body.

The initiative was initially launched among the staff members at our school. This proved to be a strategic move because it provided a model for how students can build healthy relationships and support systems with their peers. By starting at the top and moving down, it not only gets everyone involved but also allows us to lead by example.

2. Give students a voice

To have a healthy community, students deserve the right to have a say in their education and the decisions that affect them and their peers. Bring them to the table and help them understand why decisions are being made for their benefit. Provide an opportunity where students can give feedback from the unique perspective that only they have access to. They do not need to be involved in every decision, but creating this open dialogue fosters a sense of trust.

My school offers this opportunity through a student leadership empowerment program. The program is made up of a diverse group of student leaders who provide their insight on decisions. In turn, they also receive extensive leadership, teamwork, and diversity and inclusion training to help them be an influence for the student community. Not only are they given a voice, but also a unique opportunity to learn and grow.

3. Unite students with common interests

Learning should not be restricted to a class setting. Valuable growth happens in more relaxed social settings. And knowing that you’re not alone is a powerful tool. As educators, we need to let students know that their journey is not solo.

Sure, students cannot meet face-to-face these days. Schools need to be creative by bringing clubs and support groups to them. Create these opportunities to help unite your students with common interests and backgrounds.

Connect students with groups that will complement their journey of growth. For example, consider forming a mental health support group to help students through their struggles. Or an LGTBQIA+ group for students and allies where they can present topics and raise awareness in a more free, unstructured environment.

Also consider bringing together students with a common background. Something unique that my school offers is our Graduation Responsibility Acceleration Career Encouragement, or GRACE, program. GRACE provides students in challenging circumstances, such as homelessness or mental health struggles, with the dedicated support they need to stay on track to graduate and pursue a future career or college plans.

Providing a well-rounded support system is critical to help students succeed. While many of us find ourselves in an online environment this school year, know that it is possible to offer positive social opportunities to our students. These tips work for us and could work for you and your school.

Let’s continue to find innovative ways to help our students and build a brighter, stronger generation of students ready to tackle any obstacles that come their way.

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