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Maintaining Relationships with Students While Physically Separated

By Kim Marshall, TIE columnist

The article: “7 Ways to Maintain Relationships During Your School Closure” by Sarah Gonser in Edutopia, March 25, 2020,
In this Edutopia article, Sarah Gonser reports on strategies she curated from interviews with teachers about how they stay connected with their students during school closures:
• Frequently saying hello – Several teachers emphasized the importance of communicating, by video if possible, that you’re thinking of students, care for them, and miss them. For students without video access, a phone call is a good substitute.
• Maintaining morning meetings – This might be a video of announcements and daily content, with students chiming in, or a recorded meeting that students can watch asynchronously.
• “Temperature” checks – One high-school teacher is using Schoology to have his students report on their state of mind: thumb up, thumb sideways (meh), or thumb down. As part of homework, another teacher asks students to check in on a classmate and report back to her by e-mail, text, or Skype. Other teachers are using forms like the one developed by the Association for Middle Level Educators
• Snail-mail pen pals, phone pals, or virtual turn and talk – One third-grade teacher uses the Zoom breakout room feature to have students discuss a question in small groups and follows up with one-on-one sessions with students, having them read aloud for a few minutes. At the low-tech end of the spectrum, some teachers are encouraging students to call each other on a rotating basis, or sending home paper, envelopes, and stamps for students to write letters to each other.
• Creating virtual “tables” – A North Carolina eighth-grade English teacher is using Google Classroom to get groups of 4-5 students (randomly assigned) discussing assignments, asking each other questions, and staying connected.
• Including parents – This same teacher checks in with parents via e-mail every day with questions like “How are you?” and “Do you need anything?” Another teacher connects with parents with the messaging platform Remind or, for parents who don’t have text messaging, a dedicated Google Voice phone line.
• Naming and processing emotions – Social isolation, cabin fever, and disrupted routines may be freaking out students, and many teachers are providing avenues for kids to express and explore their thoughts, feelings, and worries – individually or with classmates. As students share, teachers watch for those who are having the most difficulty and following up with individual dialogue and perhaps a counseling referral.

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