Across the world, remote learning has become more popular. Sometimes, it’s by unfortunate necessity: UNICEF reports that virtual learning remained the norm in 14 countries. Full or partial closings shut 102 million students out from in-person learning. Other times, it’s by choice. Remote learning offers convenience for students pursuing tertiary education.
However, remote learning can have some drawbacks, especially for children. Without an outlet to socialise, students might become isolated and depressed. And like remote work, remote learning can blur the line between school and life, causing burnout and anxiety. It’s for this reason that teachers and school leaders must be proactive in assisting their students so that they can navigate this new normal without sacrificing their mental health. The tips below can help.
Be available for supportive talking
Supportive talking is invaluable in resolving students’ worries. This responsibility falls mainly on the parents, whose assurances alone can often help dissipate their children’s concerns. That said, teachers must make it clear to their students that they support them just as much. When students seek input, educators should take all their concerns seriously. Educators must listen to their gripes and grievances, then validate their feelings and frustrations. Only then can they offer viable solutions. It also helps to engage them in frequent small talk, and ask them how they’re doing. In this way, students get opportunities to raise their worries and concerns, so they can be addressed immediately.
Build relationships with the students’ families
Former prime minister Julia Gillard details in a Teacher Magazine long read how the best approach to mental health promotion is communal. Key players, in this case, are the students’ families, whom teachers can lean on not only in terms of providing positive reinforcement and moral support but also in spotting potential problem areas and identifying mental health warning signs, like detachment from school and constant worrying.
So, it’s imperative that teachers connect on a deeper level with their students’ families. With connection comes trust, which teachers can then leverage to create a culture of kindness that allows open and honest communication and celebrates positive developments big and small. This makes it easier to spot potential issues and deal with them before they become full-blown problems.
Recommend setting up a dedicated study area
Remote learning is a lot like remote work in that both are prone to distractions, which can cause dips in productivity that can lead to anxiety and stress. This is why an article by journalist James Gonzales on working from home emphasises the importance of designating a space meant solely for working. Having a dedicated space allows for some privacy making it easier to focus on the tasks at hand. The same principle holds true for remote learning, where students learn the most when distractions are kept to a minimum.
A guide on maximising online schooling by The Conversation notes that the best way to ensure this is to organise a dedicated learning space. This should have an ergonomic table and chair, good lighting and airflow, and excellent internet connectivity. It should also have all the materials students need at school, like pens, paper, and other study materials. This learning area should be made as inviting as possible, as doing so can go a long way in inspiring the user to do well, which helps increase productivity and minimises anxieties in the process.
Create and cultivate an inclusive online community
Finally, it’s critical that teachers create an online social construct amongst themselves and their students. That’s because a study on online learning published in Frontiers has found that this digital community can act as a buffer against attrition, which includes disengagement from class, perceived isolation, confusion with the lessons, and poor performance. These, incidentally, are common stressors, and the online community helps insulate students from them. Teachers can then leverage this fully by encouraging everyone to share whatever is on their minds, especially their concerns. In this way, teachers can provide the necessary intervention right away.
Provide mental health resources
It can also help to point students to online mental health resources. This way, they’ll have the tools to manage their issues outside of school hours. Useful mental health resources include YouTube videos on anxiety relief, guided meditation videos and apps, and online counselling apps. Our article entitled Online Counselling Apps: A Weapon Against Stigma of Mental Health notes that users of online counselling apps can conduct text or video chats with remote counsellors to vent their frustrations anonymously. If it is difficult to access the services of certified counsellors and therapists, building relationships with online counsellors is a great alternative.
Remote learning can be a challenge to navigate. Educators, who are responsible for students’ wellbeing, can help by being available, cultivating online communities, and providing resources.
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