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Overview: Welcome back, education enthusiasts! The new school year is upon us, and for those of us still stuck at home and who will continue down the “distance learning” rabbit hole, we face another year of uncertainty.
So, in this post, I will be introducing 10 tips and tricks that are the keys to surviving another unique school year. We’re all in this together!
Let’s face it. This semester (at least) is going to be different. Thousands of students will not set foot in a classroom, meet new friends, spend time with old friends, play, or simply have daily in-person interactions with anyone outside their household. For many, this transition to online learning has taken a toll on their mental health, and for many young children who may not understand the situation, virtual learning may cause exhaustion, frustration, and anxiety.
Over the past couple weeks, I’ve felt as though I’ve gone through the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I've ridden a roller coaster of emotions. Some days I still can’t believe that I’m alive during a global pandemic. However, we must accept the situation in order to move on to how to plan our lives around it. So, here are some survival tips I’ve come across or thought of that might ease your transition into the virtual school year.
1. Create a routine!
During this time of uncertainty, a routine is something that you can depend on. Set a few alarm choices for flexibility, but have a set morning routine to ease into or jumpstart your day. If you or your child’s classes are set on a fixed schedule, create a daily routine around those classes. If not, create a short routine around the hour before and after your class. In essence, have a plan for the day.
2. Design a space for school/work
To be the most productive, you first need to be in the correct mindset. This can be especially difficult if you have no set space in your home for productive work. If you are a student, you may not have an office space or even enough space in your room to do school work.
Instead, create a space in your house where you will sit down and be productive. Make it a welcoming space and decorate it for school to help you get into the working mindset. This could be especially helpful to young kids because it gives them a visual to associate with productivity.
3. Maintain social interactions
One of the most memorable and essential components of an education is social interaction. Whether that’s with friends, teachers, or the janitor, kids need to be social to grow their brains, to learn appropriate behavior, and to receive emotional input and support.
Although you may not be able to schedule play dates or get togethers in the same way, still find ways kids can see their friends and family! For teens and adults, schedule a time you can see your friends or study group either on Zoom or in a socially distanced event.
4. Make a to-do list
If this pandemic has increased your anxiety or stress levels, it is important to approach each day individually. By adding structure to your day, you may relieve some stress and give you something to expect. However, if you do create a to-do list, never reach for more than seven items a day.
Listen to yourself and your body. Adjust to your expectations with each new day, and give yourself something to look forward to. Remember, a to-do list doesn’t have to be all work and no play. Try mixing things up and add self-care items to your list. Take a nap, go for a walk/run, meditate, journal, etc.! A to-do list may also help you feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of your day.
5. Take breaks!
Your brain can focus on something for only twenty minutes at a time. That’s why taking breaks is essential to productivity and success. If you become overwhelmed by your tasks or become frustrated with yourself or your work, take a fifteen minute break. No matter how busy you are, you will have time for it.
Those fifteen minutes help reset your brain and can help calm you down, so you can be more productive than when you left the task. In times of frustration, stress, and anxiety, your mental health comes first. If it helps, schedule a time to take a break, nap, dance party, etc.
6. Move your body/play!
Exercise is essential to overall health, but it also aids in brain function and memory! I won’t get into the specifics, but moving your body activates the cerebellum at the base of your brain, which is responsible for memory and motor control. I’m not saying you need to do an hour workout everyday (but if that’s your jam, awesome!), but aim for some kind of movement everyday.
This could be going for a walk, doing jumping jacks, running, biking, playing tag, dancing, yoga, or anything you can do to get your body moving. With young kids, you can engage in social learning or take exercise as a learning opportunity.
For young kiddos: I’d highly recommend checking out “GoNoodle,” it’s a site that contains hundreds of fun learning dance activities for kids of different ages. I even danced to one of their videos in one of my courses this year! To explore this great resource, click here.
7. Start a journal
Ever since last Spring, I have kept a journal. Every night, I write down three affirmations, one thing that I accomplished, and one compliment to myself. This kind of journaling motivates me and helps boost my confidence at the end of every day. However, you can write whatever you like in your journal! You can write to it as a diary, write down your thoughts/feelings, draw, etc. The possibilities are endless! I find that journaling helps me express my emotions and reflect on each day. How does journaling help you? What style of journaling are you interested in? Let me know in the comments!
8. Maintain motivation and focus
Do you ever find yourself staring at your computer screen or textbook and forget what you read for the last five minutes? I have.
When I was taking online classes last Spring, I sometimes found myself staring at my textbook, reading the same passage over and over. Other times, it was a struggle to simply start a new task. I would wake up and not be in a productive state of mind. I would have to drag myself out of bed at 7:30 am and force a smile as I joined my Spanish Zoom session. And I know that I will lack motivation and focus in the future. However, I now know some tricks that may help me out of those funks.
Set yourself up for success even before you start your work.
For example, put your phone or any other distractions in another room, so you put yourself in a focused mindset. Or, simply turn off notifications for the time you are studying.
If you have a goal, you have something to plan for and to look forward to. If you keep a journal or a to-do list, write down a few short-term and long-term goals. Make them fun and mix in some activity-oriented goals along with school or work related goals.
9. Be safe online
As an online student, you will be inherently spending more time online, and this extra exposure may put you more at risk for cyberbullying, fraud, identity theft, etc. So, educate yourself on how to protect yourself while online before school starts. It will be one thing off your plate. If you are a parent or teacher reading this, I encourage you to educate your children and students about online safety and how to protect themselves. These discussions are essential to have as we become dependent on an online-driven world.
For more information on how to teach kids about internet safety, click here.
10. Give yourself time to adjust
Special shoutout to teachers: you are doing great! Don’t put pressure on yourself to become perfect at hosting online classes. The transition into this new realm of education has been chaotic, and teachers have been given little time to adjust to it. Do your best with what you have, and don’t push yourself more than you can take.
The transition to virtual learning has taken a toll on all of us. I find myself mentally preparing for both online and “in-person” classes, and I am still trying to wrap my head around the current situation. Plans are constantly changing, new COVID-19 updates are flooding in daily, and some school boards still aren’t confident in their fall plans. This situation is NOT NORMAL, and it will never be. So, give yourself time to adjust. Don’t rush. If you ever feel overwhelmed, take a break. Meditate. Observe your thoughts and try to understand them. Take a break from the news for a day. Surround yourself with love and good thoughts once a day. Find the good in the world because it’s always there. . .even now.
If you have any other ideas on this subject, please leave a comment! This pandemic affects all of us, and we are all in this together.
Next Week's Post: First Week of College update!
By next Tuesday, I will have completed my first week of my sophomore year of college. How did it go? Well, we'll see together!
Last week's post: Welcome to the blog! (facebook LIve Recording)
Come along on this new, exciting journey with me as I introduce the blog to Facebook, answer your questions, and talk about my future plans! To watch this video, click here.
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If you like this post, have any questions, or have ideas on how I can improve my blog, leave me a comment below! Your input is always appreciated. As always, thank you for your support.
"Teaching Kids About Internet Safety"
"Effective Virtual Learning at Home: Tips for Parents"
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Meghan Hesterman (she/her) is a child advocate and education blogger. While a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), she created Journal of a Future Teacher to share her journey in becoming an early childhood teacher.