For students of all ages, learning at home can be a challenge. Not only do they have to grapple with other distractions, like the TV in the next room, but they also don’t get to see their friends and teachers every day. For elementary school students, socialization is just as important as academics, though community is a vital part of learning for students of all ages. Furthermore, some students are losing the social safety nets that school provides. Not all children have adequate nutrition at home, while others may be struggling in silence with their coursework. It may not be as easy for them to ask for help when distance learning.
These factors can take a toll on students’ wellbeing. That’s why it’s important for administrators and teachers to take stock of their students’ wellbeing regularly, just like taking attendance. Students also need spaces to develop their social-emotional competence.
In this article, we’ll talk about how to make sure your distance learning is supporting students’ wellbeing.
Connect with Students, One on One
Students need to feel that their teachers know and relate to them. If they don’t think that they can relate to these adults, they’re less likely to connect with them and share their struggles.
So, make sure that teachers have time and methods for connecting individually with students in distance learning. These conferences don’t have to be academic. Students and teachers can have casual, fun conversations, just like they would in a face-to-face classroom.
Use Reflection Journals to Encourage Students to Track Their Reactions
Students may not be attuned to tracking their own social-emotional wellbeing. They may never have felt isolated in this way, so distance learning can make them feel differently than they ever have before.
That’s why it’s essential to teach students to pay attention to their own feelings. Assign students reflection journals, where they can write about their classes, distance learning, staying at home—whatever is relevant to them. The more that students pay attention to their feelings, the better that they can report their wellbeing.
Encourage Students to Be Honest about Their Struggles
Administrators and faculty need students to be honest about their concerns. If students don’t self-report, it can be difficult or even impossible to spot warning signs in distance learning.
There are two important considerations here. The first is promoting a private, non-judgmental space for students to share their feelings. The second is that if a student does share something upsetting, like they’re going hungry or feeling depressed, you need plans in place that can help them. Students need to know that if they express their concerns, then you will work to remedy them.
Check In Regularly and Automatically with Students
When teachers are juggling many students and new distance learning expectations, they don’t always have the time to check in with students as often as they may wish to. Automating check-ins ensures that students can report on their wellness more often than if a teacher were to handle this process by themselves.
EI Pulse from Educator Impact automatically checks in with students once a week. It asks them how they’re feeling that day and about how excited they are about their classes. These questions are geared toward gathering information about students’ mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Use Collected Data to Make Classroom and School-Wide Modifications
These EI Pulse check-ins are useful to the adults who interact most directly with an emotionally-struggling child. However, this data is also useful for administrators to make large-scale changes.
Let’s say that an EI Pulse check-in reports that only 88% of your students are feeling “great or positive.” Then, you learn that many students are struggling to find coping strategies for the new normal of the school year. In response, you could design a curriculum for teachers that would focus on coping methods that students could apply to their everyday lives.
Provide Ways to Connect Instantly with Trusted Adults
If students are struggling, they should be able to easily connect with adults they trust. This is another function of EI Pulse. Students can share the issues they’re having and choose a trusted adult with whom they want to communicate. That adult will then receive a notification that the student wants to connect with them and respond accordingly.
Students can’t learn effectively if they don’t have their basic needs met. They need to feel safe both in their homes and online. They need enough physical and technical resources to thrive academically. To make sure these needs are met while distance learning, students first need to connect with trusted adults. Tools from EI and other methods ensure that students’ wellbeing is an important part of the distance learning curriculum.
Educator Impact is dedicated to helping students find easier ways to ask for help, giving teachers real-time insights on those students, and helping school leaders identify trends in school wellbeing and culture trends.