The transition from in-class to remote and blended learning environments has put pressure on students and teachers alike. Anonymised Loop data shows that both teachers and students have reported higher stress levels across the initial stages of remote learning.
Teachers have not only had to cope with shifts in delivery of material and classes, but decreased face-to-face time with students has made it more challenging to understand progress and support wellbeing.
Students face a similar blend of academic and social challenges. A recent survey of students found that while many students felt comfortable working and learning from home, 50% of students felt they couldn’t communicate with their teacher enough and 61% missed interacting with friends and classmates, both of which impact overall wellbeing.
While schools can’t change what’s happening in the wider world, taking small steps regularly to improve student wellbeing can help maintain learning engagement, and prevent students falling behind.
So, what actions can schools take to ensure the wellbeing of students through this period of uncertainty?
1. Allow students to have a say in how their school days are organised
Encouraging input allows students to feel more comfortable about speaking up and discussing how these changes affect them, their learning, and their wellbeing.
Now more than ever, students are directly affected by leadership decisions, but are often excluded from the conversation. Student voice is recognised as a key element of creating active learning participants, and supporting wellbeing. This can be as simple as asking what is working, and what isn’t.
Within Loop student feedback tool we’ve seen students request:
Flexible class times - especially for outdoor activity and movement
Shorter school days
Less regular assessments
Whilst not every piece of student feedback will be adopted, blending the unique perspectives of students with the wisdom of teaching staff may provide new ways of working that improve the school experience for everyone.
2. Make time to check in
Make time during the day to focus on mental health. Taking 5 minutes to check in with the group can help fill the gap of face-to-face interactions.
Teachers can reach out to their students with a simple emoji scale question - sad, okay, good - to quickly discover and follow up with those who need support and reassurance.
Additionally, some Loop schools have found that asking regular questions (two or three questions every couple of weeks), can provide insight into progress over time and highlight emerging issues.
Some questions may include:
How do you feel today?
Are you coping well with the workload and delivery methods?
I feel better when …
I feel more anxious when …
Encourage students to share the strategies for wellbeing that work for them and circulate those ideas to the group.
3. Consider situational and technological challenges when providing resources and tasks
Busy families may share computers, desk space, limited internet connections or lack internet access entirely.
The Understanding America Study, by Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research identified that only ~85% of families with school age children have internet access and a computer they can use for distance learning while school buildings are shuttered. Among the 20% of American households who make US$25,000 or less a year, just 63% of schoolchildren have access to a computer and the internet.
It is important for schools to consider these socio-economic constraints on students, allowing for more flexibility in delivery of material, tasks and submission.
4. Bring a little enjoyment into each day
The reality of the pandemic and remote learning brings with it additional anxieties. Studies show health worries, financial issues, isolation and family stress are increasing. Remembering to bring some joy to the day can offer temporary stress relief. Some ideas include:
Promote self-motivation by giving students the opportunity to learn about things that really inspire them
Facilitate some relaxation exercises - breathing, yoga, and mindfulness
Share jokes or encourage students to ‘show and tell’ the family pet
5. Send regular wellness reminders
Numerous studies have shown the benefits positive thinking can have on overall wellbeing.
Daily affirmations are a great way to remain positive with your students. Schedule in a daily positive thought (try searching for daily affirmations on the web for inspiration) for the week ahead, and promote positive thinking. This can also be as simple as a message that encourages healthy habits, i.e. “Take a movement break”. You can schedule these in advance as announcements in your Loop app to encourage students to go outside, take a minute to breathe, or think positively.
Now is not the time to pretend everything is business as usual. Acknowledge that formal education is undergoing great change and the obstacles teachers and students are facing are challenging. It might help ease tensions and anxieties and help everyone to be a bit kinder to themselves and others.
Taking an active role in supporting student wellbeing is more important than ever. Loop can help simplify the processes of providing support, so there is more time to spend being there for students.