During this extraordinary time students are learning many new things, about themselves, their parents, their teachers and the world around them. One of the most impactful lessons they will take with them through their education years and into adulthood is ‘how does one respond to unexpected situations?’ and they’re learning from the examples materializing around them.
As the educators in their lives the healthiest experience we can give our learners is for our response to be whole child-centered, demonstrating our consideration for their education, mental health and well-being. The messages students receive during this time will tell them a great deal about how we value learning, how we value them as individuals, and how we respond in times like these.
We should speak honestly with the children in our lives, showing them we gather accurate information and make decisions based on facts, not fear, while helping those that we can. This time will open many students eyes to disparities and hardships within their own communities, presenting the opportunity to demonstrate kindness and creative action and showing how those are the effective tools to use in response to a crisis. We can help our young people find the courage and wisdom to weather through uncertain times, aiding their growth to become resilient empathetic citizens.
Part of a whole child-centered response needs to be the importance of giving students voice. When students have a voice in their learning, they are five times more likely to be engaged. Particularly in the absence of in-person interactions, your students are less likely to get lost in online learning when they are given a voice.
Here are a few great ideas for educators based on an ASCD blog post on giving students voice:
- For many, both educators and students, a sudden shift to online face to face meetings may be a new experience and can be a bit unsettling at first. Embrace creativity when thinking about your broadcasting background – during this time of uncertainty, your students just want to see YOU, the real you that they recognize as a source of stability and normalcy. Let your students see a glimpse of your personal side. Challenge students to rethink their own spaces. Encourage them to share their voices by creating a personalized background that provides a glimpse into what is important to them and what they deem worthy of sharing.
- When students download a worksheet, let them be surprised by a picture of your dog, your lunch, or something that makes them laugh, as this can lighten the situation for both of you. Encourage students to submit their assignments with the same personal touch. This lets them know you see and value them as individuals, even from the other side of a computer screen.
- This may be the most critical time in our careers to ensure we are good listeners. Be very purposeful—allow students to regularly give you feedback, not just about what they are learning, but regarding the clarity of a lesson, what they may be struggling with, and what they found helpful. Invite them to offer ideas for trying something new. Model that we are all learning and growing as a new community of online learners. Any type of feedback is an opportunity to connect with your students, hear their voices, and let them know you are learning from them.
- In the best of times learning is rarely neat, easy, or even linear. Rather than fearing the uncertainty that comes with shifting instruction online, seize the opportunity to be vulnerable with your students. If you are struggling to master various online applications, ask a student for assistance. Take it a step further and invite your students to be the teacher. Let them teach you and their classmates something new that can enhance online learning.
- This present situation is serious yes, however, that does not mean we can’t smile, laugh, and find joy during these challenging times. Many students are experiencing mental and physical health challenges, economic hardship, and an overwhelming sense of uncertainty. In the midst of this, it is important to create online opportunities for your students to smile and laugh without feeling guilty. Life and learning must remain joyful. There may be no greater time to make learning fun. Don’t be afraid to share a silly moment or a little humor with your students. There is no time like the present to establish a pajama day, create a dress like a hero lesson, or declare crazy hair day. All are achievable online!
- One of the biggest lessons students can learn from this time is why and how to help others in a collective community, aiding their development to become the empathic global citizens the world needs. Encourage students of all ages to help out around the house, join the family in preparing meals, play with younger siblings, write notes of thanks to health care workers, tend to an elderly neighbor’s lawn, and share supplies with those in need. Ask students their ideas for how to help others during this global crisis.
And most importantly, take care of you! This is a challenging time on every level. Yes you are being called on to reconsider how to be creative, how to engage with students and be aware of their personal well-being – “But adapting to support students is not a new concept for educators”. Not only are you teaching them positive messages about learning itself and how you value them as individuals, but you are directly showing them by example how to respond in a crisis and to unexpected situations. And that is invaluable to their lifelong learning.