As educators, we know that students are experiencing stress and uncertainty as they return to classrooms. But what are their greatest fears?
Thanks to recent research conducted by the Student Research Foundation that you can review and share in a new infographic, we have some answers to that question. Our findings are based on comments about remote learning that high school students made on social media during Spring 2020. Their comments reflect what they missed most when learning from home.
Sample Comments that Students Made on Social Media While Learning Remotely
The following comments that students posted on social media platforms offer keen insights into what they felt was lacking while they were attending school remotely.
“In class, I can ask the teachers for help as many times as I need. Online, I have only myself to use as a resource. I would rather have communication with a teacher.” – high school junior
“Remote learning takes away much of what makes high school enjoyable and special . . . I don’t get the spontaneous, unplanned interactions that occur in real life.” – high school senior
“My AP Language and Composition class had a Zoom conference . . . the conversation was explosive. I relished the opportunity to argue and challenge their positions. I didn’t even realize how isolated I was until I was able to talk to them once again.” – high school senior
If educators keep these desires in mind during the return to live learning, they will stand a much better chance of assuring that our students experience a happy and productive resumption of learning
We call these factors the Three C’s:
The Three C’s Identified by the Student Research Foundation
Students missed the camaraderie and community of being part of a school.
Students wanted more frequent communication with teachers.
Students also wanted greater interaction with their peers on projects and shared learning experiences.
Putting the Three C’s into Action
Here are some ways to put the Three C’s into action in your classroom.
Build a Sense of Connection
Students want to be rugged individuals, but they also want to feel part of a school community. Some practical steps to take can include:
- Foster school pride – There is nothing wrong with stressing that your school is a “nation” with a history and an identity that is different from other institutions. Athletics are fine but find ways to include non-athletes to join in your school’s spirit.
- Consider dividing your classroom into teams – To foster positive team pride, create different teams to complete projects. You can even name the teams – The Innovators, The Cardinals, the Creators – or whatever “speaks” to members. Their teams can compete as they create different versions of research and then share their final reports or findings with the entire class. There is no need to pick a winner. The point is to give students a sense of belonging to a team alongside other students.
- Take a look at creating clubs that will foster connection – Is your school missing certain clubs that would be good to add now? A robotics team, a debate club, a Chinese language club, or a coding club can provide connection points that are difficult to achieve in the classroom.
Build Communication with Teachers
Teachers who connect during class can do a lot to foster a sense of connection with students. But there are other ways to extend communication beyond the four classroom walls:
- Encourage teachers to have open after-school office hours – If these drop-in hours are not already available, consider adding them now. Students should feel free to drop in to ask questions about projects, homework, and current classwork. As a result of one-on-one interactions with teachers, students will feel that communication lines are more open and welcoming.
- Have an online communications platform where students can ask questions after-hours and on weekends and receive prompt replies and help – It is frustrating for students to feel that their teachers are only available on school days, during the hours when school is open. If you can increase the amount of time that teachers are available to interact, students will feel more reassured and supported.
- Encourage teachers to attend a wider range of school functions – A sense of connection and communication is improved when students see their teachers at athletic events, concerts, plays and other events.
- Invite parents to use communication channels – Although some students find it intrusive to have their parents monitor all their interactions with teachers, it is a good idea to open communications channels where parents can ask questions and express their concerns. A comment from a parent like, “Our son is very anxious about the upcoming exam” can allow teachers to step in and help in areas that were unknown to them.
Let Students Discover Ways to Experience Collaboration with Other Students
There are times when students will benefit most from doing individual research and work. Yet with a little creativity, teachers can give them opportunities to collaborate with other students:
- Let students work in pairs or trios to complete projects and research – Small teams allow students to discover the experience of collaboration.
- Assign research topics to small groups of students and let them report back to the entire class on their findings – Responsibility, when paired with collaborative structures, will help students experience the return to school in positive ways.
- Make use of non-classroom activities too – Students can join your school’s newspaper, the yearbook committee, the prom committee, and other task forces that are charged with specific responsibilities.
Carrying these Experiences into Colleges and Careers
If you are able to successfully incorporate the Three C’s into your school, consider incorporating the lessons learned into the college application process. Students who learned the value of working in small groups, for example, could be good candidates to apply for admission into small, innovative colleges. Students who enjoyed the experience of editing the school newspaper, literary magazine, or yearbook might consider colleges that offer a journalism major.
By focusing on the current challenge – getting students happily back to live learning – you and your school can discover things about your students that they can use in the future. The key is to take the time to understand what students have discovered during this transitional period, and to support them as they make decisions about their futures.
Learn More about the Three C’s
Be sure to see this new infographic from the Student Research Foundation.
We Invite You to Explore Your Students’ College & Career Options with Us . . .
Students who participate in the National Career & College Pathway Study will gain new insights about making educational decisions that align with their interests, passions, and aptitudes. Participants will receive information on college and career opportunities that match their interests.