Tips for Staying Strong as the “Virtual” School Restarts in 2021

Tips for staying strong during virtual school
Twenty-twenty is finally behind us and 2021 has begun! Many of us hoped that things would have returned to normal when the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve. While that is not the case, we do have some tips on how to stay strong for the duration of this challenging school year! Many schools continue with a model that is 100% remote model while others employ a hybrid. Instead of sitting back at their desks in their classrooms, many students are logging on to laptops in their bedrooms. Parents continue to skip the car line drop-off in order to work from their home offices. Many educators will be wearing masks and teaching to both children showing up in the classroom and on a screen.

Let’s start 2021 off strong to be sure the rest of the school year is successful for everyone involved! Here are some reminders to help achieve that.
Set up for Success

Cultivate an Educational Environment
Create a designated “work space” for your child at home. Setting up for E-Learning Success can help parents and children stay strong by keeping your child focused and in the right mindset for a great day at (virtual) school!
Jaclyn Yacoub, a virtual Special Education Teacher in Austin, TX, recommends that parents involve their child in helping to create a more structured space for “school” within their home. “Let them decorate a tri-fold poster to set up with a schedule, pictures, etc.”, she says. Creating a space like this to keep your child physically focused on school work is helpful for that child, the other students, and the teacher. “If a student on screen is constantly moving it can be very distracting for everybody,” Jaclyn says.

Create a Visual Schedule
Another top teacher tip? Create a visual schedule – a simple, written list that outlines the steps of the student’s day. Use pictures with younger children so they are easy for them to understand. For older children, create checkboxes next to each step that the student can mark after completing an assignment.
Creating a visual schedule that students can see from their workspace gives children ownership over their day. The benefit to parents? Your child will likely be more attentive and cooperative with distance learning when they feel like they have more control and know what to expect out of their day. And for teachers, that means more engaged students showing up on screen.

Foster Social Connections
Create a strong virtual community as a solution to social distancing in the classroom!  Fostering social-emotional connections benefits students, parents, and educators.

Teachers
Research has shown when a positive student-teacher relationship is established, the student is more engaged. That can lead to better attendance, higher grades, and less disruptive behaviors. Good news, right parents?
Teachers – connecting with students both in the physical and digital classroom can keep you strong this school year! It’s been proven that student-teacher relationships have an association with teacher’s emotions such as joy and anxiety. Create a positive learning environment by finding innovative ways to connect virtually with students.
Students, parents, and teachers should get comfortable with using features on video conference systems like chat, breakout rooms, and discussion threads to connect with one another. Flip grid is a free program that allows educators, learners, and families to have a video discussion experience. Technology doesn’t have to be a barrier – it can help cultivate connections within the classroom!
Students
Take time to PLAY. Work in “Brain Breaks”, where children can step away from their virtual classroom to re-energize themselves and become more focused when they return to the computer screen. Here are some favorite creative outlets to get the wiggles out:
Draw a picture          
Learn a dance (GoNoodle)                
Take a walk                    
Cosmic Kids Yoga            
FaceTime with a friend                     
Build with Legos

Parents
Open houses, PTA meetings, and school events have gone virtual this year. But parents – you’re not in this alone! Staying connected with other parents is more important than ever. Get together over Zoom to share experiences, thoughts, and tips for online learning.
Make an effort to stay connected to your child’s teacher as well. Keeping an open line of communication can help out the teacher (if you’re going to miss a Zoom meeting, let them know!) and ensure a strong involvement in your child’s progress!
 
While participating in distance learning, if you or your child’s teacher notice your child is having difficulties in learning, behaviors, or communication, it’s best to seek support soon. TherapyWorks will match you with a specialist based on your child’s needs and your areas of concern. If intervention such as Speech Therapy is recommended, teletherapy is a convenient, safe, effective option to support the remainder of this “virtual” school year!
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Are you interested in services for your child? Founded by Michelle Worth and Erin Vollmer, TherapyWorks provides in-home speech, occupational and physical therapies in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois and teletherapy nationwide.

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