In some countries, we've resumed as much of normal life as we can, with a few additional "new norms". We are masked up, socially distanced, and back in restaurants, offices, and in-person classes. We can even visit family and friends in limited groups now.
After several months with these new rules, though, I still don't feel settled. Whenever, the news reports higher numbers of Covid-19 cases, I begin to anticipate another lockdown. I think about how it would feel to spend another few months working from home and attending online school.
While we wait (either to go into lockdown again or to get vaccinated), it's worth consolidating what we learnt from the previous lockdowns.
Social and emotional learning is a priority
One of the biggest losses that comes with remote learning is the loss of social interaction. This can take a toll on anyone – particularly young children.
It's impossible to recreate the quality of in-person social interaction, but it's still possible to carve out time for your students to chat with their educators and peers outside of their schoolwork. For example, you can set aside time in the school day to play ice-breaker games, or have class discussions. Show-and-tells, virtual talent shows, or lunch time zoom sessions can give students the opportunity to let loose, be silly, and chat freely for a while. It can give them the reprieve they need in the middle of the virtual school day.
Having class discussions that explore current affairs can also help students make sense of the news. Creating a space where students can collectively process what's happening. Talk about the headlines, encourage your students to share their thoughts and feelings, and field any questions that you think you are able to answer.
Parent communication should occur consistently
Part of educating young students is observing them – to identify strengths and weaknesses, and to understand how best they receive information. What happens when you can't observe them anymore?
Even with the webcam turned on, educators' ability to observe their students is severely limited. In this case, parent communication could be your saving grace. Parents can provide you with valuable feedback based on what they observe at home.
Questions like these can shine a light on what's working and what you might need to rethink:
- Is the student restless during lesson time?
- Is the student struggling to keep up with school work?
- What does the student enjoy most about remote learning?
While parents can be a great asset in this aspect, it's important to recognise that they are busy as well. They're running a household, working from home, and parenting all at once. To make this task easier on them, your school can look into parent-communication portals.
A good parent-communication portal should allow parents to:
- Reach specific school staff easily. They should be able to contact the right person based on their needs, whether it's their child's teachers, or a school administrator for other needs.
- Send multimedia. Feedback on a student's performance is best supplemented with photos and videos.
- Send student information securely. Student information is incredibly sensitive and should not be shared on social platforms (such as shared documents, chatting apps).
School management systems like LittleLives have specialised a parent-communication app, Little Family Room, that tick off the above checklist and more. Little Family Room allows parents to view teachers' observations of their children in school and receive updates from the school at any time throughout the school year.
It's also more important to maintain parent communication that is consistent. Consistent communication can allow educators to adapt their teaching sooner, rather than later, and it allows issues to be raised well before the annual parent-teacher conference.
Whether remote learning becomes a reality for you, or not, there are lessons from the lockdown that can be carried forward to in-person classes as well. The silver lining to these difficult changes is that we become more prepared each time we overcome them.