Many educators are searching for new strategies to connect with their students because their in-person techniques don’t transfer to distance learning. Students of all ages feel more motivated and willing to take risks with teachers that intentionally support their social and emotional needs. Students who don’t feel a connection with their teachers may disengage during distance learning.
Luckily, with some creativity, collaboration, communication, technology and planning, you can still build rapport and a strong learning community from a distance. Here are 18 ideas for supporting students’ social and emotional needs from your home.
Incorporate Community Building into Class Meetings
- Ask students how they are doing and request feedback on how the work is going. This simple gesture opens up honest communication.
- Invite a counselor to join a class meeting.
- Allow a few students to show something personal to the class, like a pet, a collection, or a picture. Join in on the fun! Seeing you share will help them feel safe to share.
- Allow time for chatting and silliness. Some of your students may not be getting this opportunity in their homes, and laughter is a great emotional release.
- Plan a meeting to show school pride. You might suggest everyone wears a crazy hairstyle or school colors. With everyone so isolated, this reminds students that you are still a safe and caring community.
- Incorporate routines to give kids a sense of normalcy and familiarity. Try starting the meeting with a stretch or quick chant and closing it with a song. Maybe families can volunteer to lead the Pledge of Allegiance.
- Celebrate what students are doing outside of remote learning. They may want to show you a craft project or tell you about a game they played. One student may inspire another student to try something new.
- Go on an online field trip together. Many zoos and museums are creating ways to access their collections online.
- Create optional meetings just for fun. You can eat breakfast, watch a movie, or read aloud to them. Even teens like participating in these fun events.
- If you are allowed into your classroom, hold a meeting from there to remind students of a safer time.
Interact with Students
- Communicate with students and parents about your expectations for this challenging time and ask them for feedback.
- If allowed, coordinate a parade of teachers. All the teachers can drive through the neighborhood at a specific time while students stand outside their doors and wave.
- Send a hand-written note to your students.
- Call students.
- Use messaging apps and social media to chat with teens. They may be more likely to open up and be natural on these informal communication channels.
- Create a video compilation with teachers or students. They can be singing a song, posing with a pet, or just saying hi.
- Assign work that encourages interaction and reflection.
- Send video messages of encouragement or even something silly. One high school principal sent a video message of him talking about expectations. At the end of the video, he got up, turned around, and showed a funny note taped to his backside.
As you fine-tune your methods to connect, remember that parents and students are also adjusting. By now, some are settling into a workable learning routine, but others may still be struggling.
Now is not the time to be a stickler about due dates and grades. The pandemic has caused a monumental lifestyle change. Your students may not perform at their usual level. Cut yourself some slack too. No one expects you to become an expert in online teaching overnight.
While you cannot save the life of everyone in the world, you can make a world of difference in the lives of your students.