Reimagine Learning

Three Keys to Protecting Remote Students

Pat Keeney, guest blogger for Second Avenue Learning.

We, as teachers, provide much more than content. We protect our students and usually feel a deeply-seeded desire to see no harm come to them. But now, they are remote. Some are unreachable while others are available through only text, voice, or two dimensional screen. How do we protect and serve as role models when so remote?

“How Are You?” – The Priceless Question 

 I now collaborate with and lead adult professionals but still feel that protective instinct. My first question during any interaction has become: “How are you?” Tell me! I want to know! If we spend the first 15 minutes of a 15 minute conversation on just this then it was a successful chat. Students sometimes will need to vent, laugh, and cry. Ask them how they are and they will perk up or droop. My adult son and daughter both are like this. I am like this. Your students are like this. Upon empathetically and intensely listening to them, the familiar universe of knowing them at more than a surface level reopens. You are a caring adult and “How are you?” might be the most important three words they hear all day!

The Value of Perspective

Our students rarely have the agency that the adults in their homes practice. Agency requires good information to act successfully. Never before has there been so much information and so little value to each bit. Social networks are the “Wild West” of information and the largest news outlets are posting stories with stock imagery written by quarantined reporters. How can you help students sift through the noise?

Perspective can be communicated through hopeful messaging that is positive and therapeutic. 

  • Telling students “We will get through this…” may be the most positive and valuable perspective. 
  • If you have a historical perspective, having a few “…did you know that…” statements in your back pocket are golden! Of course, whatever you have experienced is a greater sample size than what your students have experienced. 

While I am not well-versed in history, shows like “The Crown” and documentaries like “America in Color” are invaluable sources of tidbits to provide perspective. 

Accomplish Meaningful Academics 

Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest athlete of the 1990s and the best to ever play basketball. His personal trainer acted in a capacity similar to the teacher-student dynamic. As his “teacher” Tim Grover, talks about a tactic he used when Michael was mentally tired at the 13:30 mark of the video below. In short, when he sensed Michael was worn down mentally, he would give Michael a puzzle to solve or a problem to work through and focus on. Having to focus on a task or problem, especially if it is a “light” task, is especially helpful to students today because it relieves them of the barrage of messaging and reminders about COVID. Yes, in some ways, a great short story or math problem set that you discuss with them may be the most compassionate and effective act of teaching you can provide to help protect your student. In this case let’s broaden “protection” to include protecting their mental and emotional stability. 

I am interested to hear your ideas and how you are supporting and protecting your students in these unprecedented times. I  want to say thank you for what you are doing and let you know that your efforts make a difference. Stay safe, be well!