It’s that time of year again: By now, most students and teachers have headed back to school—well, sort of. With some variation of e-learning becoming the new normal, many haven’t seen an actual classroom since mid-March, while others find themselves with hybrid schedules.
Teachers are taking to the virtual stage to deliver their lesson plans via Zoom or Google Meet. School administrators have spent months navigating complex logistical obstacle courses and crafting back-up plans B through Z. Parents are moonlighting as homeschool teachers. And the kiddos? They’re plugging along, relying on technology for virtually* everything: schoolwork, entertainment, and socializing!
So how does everyone survive this confusing, unpredictable educational landscape? We asked real teachers, students, administrators, and parents for tips they’ve found useful to make the most of their school year. Let’s un-pak that!
*pun fully intended
TIPS FOR STUDENTS
Tip #1: Create your own structure wherever you can.
Especially for high school and college students, it’s important to understand and plan for the greater level of autonomy that comes with the home learning days. Students have more choices to make regarding their work environments and the way they use their time when they’re learning from home, so they should think about how to best set up their learning space, their materials, and their schedule.
For example, where to sit, what to do with time in between classes, and how to organize "school time" and "non-school time" during the day, are largely up to each student. Schools may provide some structure for these choices, but successful students will take note of what conditions within their control work best for their learning and will continually refine their methods.
Tip #2: Keep the proper tools in your tool belt.
- Wear headphones during video lessons or meetings to limit distractions.
- Make sure you’re muted unless you have something to contribute to the class discussion. Also, ensure your audio is working properly for when you do participate in class conversations.
- Make use of checklists.
- Keep a laptop or tablet charger handy.
- Keep in contact with classmates because it’s easier to lose track of assignments and due dates with virtual classes.
- Remember that a lot of classes are recorded, so you can always go back if there’s something you missed.
TIPS FOR TEACHERS
Tip #3: Separate work and home.
Be accessible to students during the day, but also set office hours and stick to them. Try taking your work email off your phone and closing your laptop after hours to create boundaries between work life and home life.
Bonus tip: Teachers should always have wine on hand!
TIPS FOR PARENTS
Tip #4: Know that each child works differently.
Every kid is different in the way they best learn depending on age, personality, and all sorts of other factors. Some may benefit from a watchful eye and more hands-on approach, while others prefer working independently. For each individual child, experiment with different strategies, and ask for their input to find what works best for them. Chances are, they’ll have opinions about what they need in order to succeed. It’ll likely require some trial and error, but with a little time and patience, you’ll find a routine that works.
TIPS FOR EVERYONE
Tip #5: Take a break.
Emotional wellbeing is just as important as academic or professional wellbeing. Be mindful of when you become bored, restless, distracted, or stressed, and recognize when you need a break. Take a walk. Get a drink or a snack. Meditate.
Do whatever you need to do before getting back to work. You can even try planning breaks with your family throughout the day so you can measure your time on a clock like you would at work or school.
And when you’ve completed your work, don’t forget to reward yourself!
Tip #6: Practice patience.
This situation is new for students, parents, and teachers, alike. Don’t expect 2020 to be like 2019 (and all the years before that). Just do the best you can, and we’ll get through this together!
Let us help you give this school year the opportunity to be awesome! We have several back-to-school paks for students, teachers, parents, and all the other rockstars who are working hard to create a supportive learning environment for everyone this fall. If you know someone deserving of a gold star in the form of a fun and fabulous back-to-school care package, check these gift boxes out!
Thank you so much to this blog post's contributors! We couldn’t have written it without the help of:
- Creed, middle school teacher
- Dede, middle school resource teacher
- Jane, retired special education teacher
- Zach, college senior
- Greg, high school administrator and teacher
- Kari, mom of 5 kids ranging from K through high school
- Lisa, special education teacher
Tips revised for organization and length.