Four Simple Ways to Help Your Students Succeed with Virtual Learning
As families head into a historically unprecedented back-to-school season, I can tell you as a fifteen-year educator that the landscape for education both public and private is complicated. Local schools and school districts are working heroically to mitigate the impacts of a global pandemic and at the same time create successful environments in person and online for learning.
Back in March, we were thrown into virtual learning, and while it wasn’t all bad, for many the experience was not positive. I had the perspective of being on both sides of the screens – on one side as a mom of two, navigating google classrooms with my kids – and on the other side as a teacher transitioning my classroom and curriculum to a virtual format.
We all learned a lot.
While the percentages vary from school to school and region to region, as we begin the 2020-21 school year, it appears that as many as a quarter to a third of all students in our NE Florida region will begin virtually. As a mom and teacher, I wanted to share four ways to help your kids succeed in virtual learning.
1. Create A Daily Schedule (and stick with it!)
While much of the schedule during the day may be dictated by your child’s school, you’ll quickly realize that there is a lot of flexible time before, during and after the virtual plan. In brick and mortar learning, these times are occupied with bathroom breaks, recess, lunch time and resource classes or in-class free time. At home, it can be very easy for these times to devolve into LOTS of screen time, TV or gaming. With a little planning up front, your kids will quickly adapt to a planned schedule that includes class work, but also might include a daily bike ride, 30 minutes of reading, lunch, and a creative project. In our house, we printed the daily schedule and hung them in a few places so the kids knew what was next. We regularly used timers with Alexa around the house to keep us on track and moving. Your kids will appreciate the change of pace, the feeling of accomplishment and the movement onto the next thing.
2. Establish “School Only” Workspaces and Behaviors
During quarantine, my oldest struggled to make the mental separation between being at home and engaging in school. That needed change in environment matters more than we realize for many kids, so creating “school specific” spaces and behaviors can be very important. If you have an empty room or flex room, turn it into a classroom and let your kids create their own spaces. Even a dedicated space at the table during the day can work. I would avoid regularly allowing school work from the bed, the couch or the floor. Also, “normal” school behaviors should be encouraged. Kids should get up, get fully dressed maybe even pack a lunch. All of these environmental changes will allow them to lock in mentally for the school day ahead.
3. Participate in All Virtual Interactive Experiences
If I look back on our virtual experience last spring with one major regret, it’s that we didn’t participate regularly in available, but optional, online group experiences. This led to a greater disconnect than I originally realized for my kids from their classmates and teachers. As a teacher who was conducting these online experiences, I also began to realize how much connection they provided me with my students. As schools are heading into this year more prepared for virtual learning, I would imagine these opportunities for “hangouts” or “meets” online with teachers and classmates will increase. I would make sure students take advantage of these opportunities, especially if there is a plan to reintroduce them back into brick and mortar classrooms later in the year.
4. Engage Deeply as a Parent
After 15 years as a teacher, I can tell you that few things make more of a difference in the success of a student than a deeply engaged parent or guardian. While many of your responsibilities as the parent of a student will be similar or identical to a brick and mortar experience, there will be some unique responsibilities as a virtual parent. Ensuring your students are navigating their online classes well, staying on top of communication, and managing the ups and downs of the home / school environment will be unique for virtual families. Your commitment to be active as a parent in all these experiences will be the difference between an average and excellent virtual experience. I believe you can do it!
Everything above is simply an idea or a suggestion that might help you in these unique days. It’s important to remember we’re all doing this for the first time and we’ll need each other’s support. My husband has repeatedly said that during this time of pandemic, we are more insulated, but we don’t have to remain isolated. Maintain strong connections with your school, friends, family and local church. We’re better together!