We can all agree that the last school year did not go as planned. The 2020-2021 school year is also proving to be unconventional, with COVID-19 continuing to disrupt many traditional education modalities and sometimes even separating students from their teachers to ensure social distance safety. Despite the ongoing effects of the pandemic on our lives, you can still get your students excited about the school year and re-engaged in their commitment to learning. In fact, this year, more than ever, it may just be more important to allow your students to focus on something positive and find some consistency among the uncertainty.

Enable Students to Focus on a Passion Project

Encourage every student to pursue a topic of interest. Such an assignment will foster their understanding of a subject that engages them and helps develop their sense of exploration. Encourage such work as part of your curriculum, an extra credit assignment, or as a pass-fail requirement. By loosening the parameters around topics and format delivery, you can encourage students to learn on their own—and enjoy the sense of accomplishment and excitement that it will bring. Such experiences are critical to developing a lifelong appreciation for learning and exploration. 

Support Families Who Need Additional Resources

According to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau, parents reported that their children’s teachers were spending about four hours a week in online instruction with students. In comparison, parents estimated spending an average of 13 hours per week assisting their children. For families with parents who are both essential workers, or who lack the time, resources, or ability to help students with homework, lessons, and learning, their children are at risk of becoming unengaged and falling behind academically. If you become aware of a situation where a student needs more at-home support to keep them feeling motivated and maintain their momentum, talk to your school leaders about school or community resources that might be available. By intervening early, you can help a student from becoming disinterested or despondent.

Integrate COVID-19-Related Content into the Curriculum

Students of all ages may be struggling to accept how their world has rapidly changed due to COVID-19. Others may have lost a loved one from the novel virus. By incorporating COVID-19 into your course curriculum, teachers can help students make sense of their new normal. In grade-appropriate contexts, science classes can discuss virus spread risks, English classes can offer reflection-based writing assignments on how life has changed over the past year, and history classes can examine similarities and differences with past pandemics. Such assessments will help students put the current world events into perspective and become engaged in learning that is highly topical, relevant, and critical to their lives.

Stay Connected

COVID-19 has taught us that we can stay connected, even remotely, through the use of technology and by committing to frequency. If your school district is beginning the school year in a remote or hybrid instruction format, differently foster the relationship that your students need from you as their educational mentor. Check in often, ask students how they are feeling about their progress, and offer to aid them if technology or resources become challenging.

Stay connected with parents as well, and ask them to help you understand where their child may be struggling. You’re used to being able to interpret what your students are too insecure to say aloud, so you will need to rely on their parents to come to you when a student is frustrated and doesn’t know how to ask for extra help. Confident students are more engaged students, so make sure that every child in your classroom feels like they can rely on you, no matter how socially distanced you might be from one another.

Want to learn more?

Discover ideas that you can implement right away regardless if you’re teaching remotely, face-to-face, or a combination of the two with the related PLS Course: Social-Emotional Learning: Essential to Student Success™.

In this course, you’ll focus on the importance of supporting academics with social-emotional learning. You’ll explore the five areas of social-emotional learning: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, social awareness, and relationship skills. 

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