Coronavirus pushes classroom online leaving teachers to find new ways to connect with students

Virtual learning creates difficulties for ESL students

For non-native speaking English students, trying to get good grades while learning a new language can be challenging at the best of times, but as classes turn virtual some students are being left behind.

With the coronavirus mounting a resurgence in areas across the U.S., schools not already using a hybrid schedule to teach students may look to begin virtual learning in their districts. But by moving lessons online, teachers will lose the in-person connection they have with some students, which could make it difficult to pick up on cues regarding mental health.

“Teachers are translators of emotion,” Dr. Isaiah Pickens, a clinical psychologist who works with teachers and educators to identify and address racial inequality issues and mental health problems in students, told Fox News. “They are able to see students as an individual and in the context of the classroom.”

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Losing the physical classroom, however, doesn’t mean teachers have to lose the connection with their students. Pickens said teachers will still have plenty of information coming their way from students that could signal a larger issue is going on.

“If there’s a change in mood, there’s less engagement, hearing things as the student learns from home like arguments, etc., these allow educators to perk their ears up,” he said.

And while the safety of the physical classroom may be gone, there are many ways educators can provide support to their students virtually that might even be more helpful than before.

“The virtual world gives multiple modes for communicating, so there are multiple ways you can communicate something that you are experiencing,” Pickens said, adding that a chatroom, an email, or a video chat might actually make it easier for a student to approach a teacher with an issue rather than doing so in-person.

Others, however, may feel at a disadvantage to teaching their students remotely, especially those who never had the chance to meet their students in person to establish a baseline for their mood, demeanor or work habits. For those teachers, Pickens recommends looking for the universal signs that could mean emotional distress such as feelings of hopeless, incomplete assignments, low levels of engagement, or not participating in class activities online, or being a disruption like arguing with students in online chats.

“Teachers don’t need to be social workers, but what [recognizing these emotions] does is it normalizes that one, we’re all going through something right now and two, it’s OK to share parts of ourselves in virtual space to use that foundation to continue to connect and open up in many ways,” he said.  

Being direct when communicating with the student can help bolster their emotional being or let them know there is help available. Teachers should reach out directly to the student to let them know they notice a change in attitude, Pickens said.

“Being direct allows students to feel seen,” Pickens said. “Communicating that they are not a burden, whether virtual or in a private chat, saying ‘I’m wondering what it is that has you feeling whatever feeling they are feeling,’ it helps the kids have language to communicate. Think about who is the best ongoing support for the child, it might be a parent, or it might be a peer who can help make the kid feel less lonely – and sometimes it might be professional support.”

On the flip side, Pickens said virtual learning has helped teachers notice students who may have previously slipped through the cracks due to shyness or lack of confidence in the classroom, and those students are starting to blossom through online platforms. It’s also helping to identify students who might need more academic support.

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“One of the things teachers have been really praising is multiple ways to engage in class – students are engaging a lot more and it’s very easy to be a student by just participating in the chat,” he said.

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4 ways to end your day positively

Some days — who are we even kidding, most days — it seems like we really are running a rat race, and the rats are definitely winning. All day long, we’re scrambling to keep up with everything we’ve got to do, and when nighttime comes, we sink into bed, exhausted, hoping and praying we’ll be able to get just enough sleep to allow us to run, run, run from the moment the alarm goes off again the next day.

While it may seem counter-intuitive to be told to slow down when it seems we’re always running behind, it’s nonetheless important to try to take a few moments for yourself at the end of every day to relax, gather your thoughts, and renew your energy. ICF Certified Life and Spiritual Coach Ryan Haddon, who’s also a certified hypnotherapist and meditation teacher, suggests several nightly practices you can adopt that will not only let you end your day in a positive way, but will help some of that positivity carry over into the next morning.

End your day positively by taking an inventory

Haddon says that if you do a personal inventory at the end of every day and try to let yourself be guided by the lessons you find there, you will, over time, be able to “move the needle forward on becoming the best version of yourself.” This is the ultimate goal of all self-improvement, right? You’re always going to be you, but you might as well be the very best you you can be.

As to how you perform a personal inventory, Haddon says you should think of three things you did that went well, and three more things that didn’t go so well. If, in analyzing the latter actions, you find that you owe anyone an apology or think you really ought to make amends for something that was your fault, you should plan to do so the very next day. That way, Haddon assures, you’ll be “keeping your side of the street clean and waking up with a clean slate.”

End your day positively by taking a deep breath

Adopting a practice of nighttime meditation or breath work, according to Haddon, can provide you with “a powerful time to drop into stillness by preparing the mind and body for deep rest.” She also says that meditation and deep breathing make for ” a nice way to connect to who you are outside of all the roles you play in your waking hours.” 

As to how you meditate — they’ve got an app for that; actually, a whole bunch of apps. Breath work (not the holotropic, rapid-breathing type) is even easier — all you need to do, according to Haddon, is to set a timer for 10 minutes and spend that time breathing easily, yet intentionally. Feel each breath coming in and out, counting one as you breathe in, then two as you breathe out. Count up to 10 with these in-out breaths, then start over again at one. Breathe and count, count and breathe. Sounds very peaceful and relaxing — but no worries if you do drop off, since your body has sense enough to keep on breathing even when it’s not intentional.

End your day positively by giving thanks

An attitude of gratitude never hurt anyone, and in fact, it can do you a lot of good remembering how much you have to be thankful for, even when things are rough. Since it can sometimes be hard to remember to send those thank-you notes to the universe, Haddon advocates keeping a “gratitude journal” by the side of your bed and writing in it every night before you turn off your light. 

She says you should try to come up with 10 things you are grateful for each day. While it may seem difficult to do, especially if you don’t want to keep reproducing the same cut and paste list every day, Haddon explains that “try[ing] not to repeat the same gratitudes over and over, the magic starts to happen during the day when [you] look for the good happening in real time.” She says that you’ll learn to appreciate the more subtle things, which, in turn, will allow your mindfulness to increase. You will also start to see that “there are always positives unfolding in your life when you’re present for them.”

End your day positively by saying these magic words

One particularly powerful bedtime practice is that of nighttime affirmations, repeated to yourself just before you drift into sleep. Haddon describes the subconscious mind as “the part of you that runs your operating system beneath the surface” and says that this part “holds all your beliefs about yourself and the life around you.” The subconscious, it seems, is most receptive to new ideas when brain wave activity slows, as it does while you’re nodding off. If you feed your subconscious with ideas about love, abundance, and success, then, Haddon promises, “you’ll wake up with success codes built into your blueprint for the day ahead.”

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