Guidelines for Educators

  • Maintain a sense of community and connection through distance learning. Build in time for students to check in with each other, to share an experience, and to have fun during virtual classes as this provides opportunities for social connection and promotes self-awareness, social awareness, and relationship skills. Relationships are always a priority and a key to engagement and learning, and especially so at a time when young people may be feeling isolated. The time you spend socializing, sharing out, or even playing a virtual game may be the reason your students are motivated to log on regularly!
  • Establish a predictable, manageable routine by beginning convenings, sharing out, and assigning work in a consistent, structured way. This reduces anxiety and creates a sense of security. As you assign work, divide large projects into manageable chunks, as students are more likely to feel overwhelmed when they can’t easily check in with a teacher. Structure assignments in ways that allow for flexibility to both increase student investment and avoid assumptions about materials and technology they may have available.
  • Incorporate social and emotional skill building into learning plans. Use familiar strategies from an SEL program or CASEL’s SEL 3 Signature Practices to provide opportunities for students to reflect and contribute, pause to process their emotions and thoughts, connect and collaborate with their peers, and promote empathy for one another and those most impacted by the virus. For assignments and projects, consider encouraging students to work together through shared documents and apps to strengthen skills in collaboration and relationship-building. With independent work, include open-ended questions that require students to reflect on their personal experience and feelings to strengthen self-awareness. Connect SEL with current events by using developmentally appropriate conversations and lessons to discuss the impact, history, and context around biased or stigmatizing comments and behaviors related to COVID-19. See examples of how to have conversations about racism, stereotyping, and bias related to the virus.
  • Have patience and empathy for your students and their families. Acknowledge that young people and their family members are experiencing additional stress and overlapping responsibilities. If others miss due dates, are quick to show anger or frustration, or are slow to respond to you, recognize that they are also learning to adapt to new circumstances and may be struggling with stressors you are not aware of.
  • Provide opportunities for staff to process emotions, share challenges, and offer support to one another. Your colleagues are also adjusting to new and difficult ways of working and taking care of family and friends. They may be facing financial, relational, and health stress in addition to the stress of learning to conduct classes online.  Adults also benefit from feeling connected with and known by their peers. Build in space for personal connection and mutual support, whether it’s 5 minutes at the beginning of a virtual meeting for everyone to respond to a question, breaking into smaller groups to share problems of practice, setting up optional online social events, or creating random pairs so that everyone has a specific colleague to check in for a virtual coffee date once a week.
  • Prepare to address the difficult questions and concerns on the minds of students. Some concerns may be predictable, such as fears around COVID-19 or wonderings about when the school will re-open, while others may go unmentioned. For those that are predictable, plan ahead and agree as a staff community about how you will address them proactively. Review guidance on engaging in developmentally appropriate conversations and lessons to discuss the news around COVID-19. You may decide to spend time with students sorting out facts from misinformation, sharing information about ongoing preparation about their return to school, and ways the school or community partners can support families in need. For the questions and concerns that students may be anxious to bring up, offer multiple ways for students to ask questions or share challenges with a caring adult.
  • Consider the different needs of students and families when making response plans and connect them to necessary resources. This includes ensuring that response plans will fully meet the needs of students and families who are homeless or in transitional living situations, may not have easy access to computers or internet, receive free or reduced-price meals through school, or rely on support services at their schools.