Connecting with our students is as important as assigning them work and keeping them busy. During this unpredictable time, our students are probably feeling as much uncertainty as we are. Our webinar attendees had great ideas for how educators can maintain those connections with students, which they’ve work so hard to create—even while schools are closed.
One elementary educator said, “I’m having quick morning Zoom or phone calls with each student (every other day) to give them positive reinforcement or affirmations for the day.”
A paraprofessional from New York City said that her class is using Google Hangouts occasionally so that the kids can still talk to each other. Pro tip: If those instructional Zoom calls become too loud and chaotic from the kids’ excitement in seeing each other, allow them to talk as much as they want for 10 minutes and then mute all the participants so you can talk too.
Along the same lines, this teacher from Chicago says she’s using Zoom “but more for fun. My kiddos are 4 years old. I am not sending any work. I am not taking attendance. Just a relaxing time.”
If you’re concerned that your students don’t have internet access at home and can’t connect with you virtually, you can always call them.
One teacher said, “Teachers—during this age of remote teaching, if you don’t feel comfortable using your own phone number to contact parents, you can make a Google Voice number specifically for teaching. It’s free, you can send calls to your phone, or, if you want to use an old smartphone, you can call/message parents while connected to Wi-Fi with a different number. I just set up an account using my Gmail and now have a work phone so my personal cellphone doesn’t get inundated with calls!”
A special education teacher is doing something very similar: Each student who has an IEP gets one-to-one time on the phone with her and her co-teacher to make sure they are doing well and to check in with their parents about any concerns they may have.
Many teachers are concerned about students feeling especially anxious during this time.
“We have done several online/distance learning lessons about anxiety and worry related to the pandemic. I teach students with emotional behavior disorders, so social-emotional learning is key,” said a special education teacher in Saint Mary’s, Ga.
Want more ideas on how to support the roller coaster of emotions you and your students are feeling? Join Dr. Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and a professor in the Child Study Center at Yale University for a webinar on the “The Big 7: Healthy Emotion Regulation During Uncertain Times.” The webinar will be live on Thursday, April 16, 2021, at 3:00 PM EDT and then available on demand. Register here.
And, of course, it’s still important to have some fun.
Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia had a virtual spirit week for their students. Each day was a new theme, and students posted pictures in their outfits and costumes on social media every day using a common hashtag.