About two weeks ago, my students and I were reviewing a recent test to prepare for a second one in which they were to change a study habit. Even though I briefly discussed with them what we would do if we were to move online, I had no idea that we had just had our last class meeting for the semester. Hurriedly, I pivoted to a take-home test (I am sure they were glad for that) and asked them to take a break as we moved into the official Spring Break week.

It wasn’t just my teaching that was affected by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. My family life was changing, too, as I arranged for my oldest kid to return home from her study abroad program and as my youngest kid started taking his high school classes from home.

I am not going to pretend that these are normal times. They are not. And we are all doing the best we can to figure out what we should  be doing.

I can attest that the institution that I work for has demonstrated brave leadership and the faculty who teach at my institution have stepped up to the plate. And the students? They have been flexible and upbeat for the most part. Understandably, though, many had some adjustments to make as we made the mad dash to put our courses online.

Now that we are a couple of weeks into this monumental change, I want to share some advice about how to support your student.

  • Ask them about what they are doing. Are they watching videos, logging into a web conferencing system such as Zoom to listen to their professor, or reviewing PowerPoints? What they are doing now may be a big change from what they did only a few weeks ago, and they may want to talk about it.
  • Ask them how they are doing. How do they feel about the change? Many have expressed disappointment with not “being in class” with their classmates and professors. Others have been concerned that they are not able to hang out with friends and having to move back home (No offense, Mom and Dad!). They will feel better when they are able to put words to the thoughts and feelings they are having now.
  • Encourage them to get organizedNow that there are not set times for classes, it makes it a little more difficult to create a regular schedule. Get them a large calendar or suggest they use an online calendar to keep track of what they need to do when. Good organizational skills are more important than ever and they will need a designated place and space to do their work.
  • Remind them to check their email. Colleges and universities are relying on email messages to keep their students and communities informed. No doubt there will be lots of worthwhile information to review and recommended websites to bookmark. It may seem overwhelming, but your student will need to stay connected–and read those emails–now more than ever.
  • Suggest they reach out. One of the hardest parts of this change in how we are teaching and learning is not getting a chance to see my students and get a sense of how they are doing. Even if it is just a message that says “I am doing fine! Just wanted to let you know,” suggest that your student stay in touch with their professors and advisors.
  • Remind them to take breaks. This time away from the classroom can be a good opportunity to reset and rest in between assignments. Encourage them to take a walk, call a friend, or do nothing for a bit until they feel refreshed. They may want to schedule time during the day to stand up and move around at the least.

My hope is that we will be able to finish this semester with as little disruption as possible, that my students and my own kids weather this situation with resolve and resilience.


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