In the classroom, in the hall, on the playground: these are all opportunities for teachers to pick up on students’ emotional well-being—opportunities that are now missing while in-person learning is cancelled. Our students’ emotions are still very important—even more-so now— as their emotional state impacts how motivated they are to participate in remote learning activities. As educators, what can we do to attend to our students’ emotional needs? How can we reach out?
It’s not always possible to reach out digitally to each student as not all homes have access to technology, or sometimes the child simply is not motivated to log on. Go old school. Mailing a personal note or simply calling on the phone are always options. And if they don’t answer, try to phone them again. We’ve also seen teachers posting times when they drive through the neighborhoods and share the love! Be creative, but be kind to yourself, too. Your well-being matters to us!
Check-in forms are another easy way to gather information. Google Forms and Desmos are straightforward ways to do this. Google Forms is an easy way to gather information from students and organize that information in a spreadsheet if applicable. Teachers can find out who has a device at home, what times are good for students to meet, or simply what everyone had for breakfast (any news will do). Desmos has been adding activities and features in response to distance learning. Here is an example of a check-in activity on Desmos that can be edited to include questions specific to your students.
Pushing out videos to students creates a visual connection to them. With a platform such as SeeSaw, you can record a weekly or daily greeting for your entire class or post video or audio messages to individual students. Flipgrid is another great streamlined platform to post, respond to, and view videos. Students who have the technology and support at home can record and post responses to your prompts or videos, and they can watch their classmates’ videos. Think of it as an opportunity for you and students to connect through a journal entry prompt, but as a video journal (“What’s your favorite meal?”, “ Would you rather become 5 years older or 2 years younger?”, etc.).
Are you able to hold a virtual classroom with your students? If so, think about using some of this time as a class meeting or circle time session. Play a round of would you rather, show and tell, scavenger hunt, or simply break them into groups (Zoom is a platform that allows breakouts) and let them chat about a prompt you give. Google Meet is another popular option for hosting virtual classes.
Our students are feeling the stress of our current situation. They might be missing friends and school trips, or they might be taking care of siblings in addition to attending to their own school work. Reaching out to your students through these simple interactions might be exactly what they need to feel that they are not alone and what encourages them to engage with you and with school.
Written by Jenesis Byrne, MCMI Coach