The 2020-2021 school year has officially kicked off for many students.  Here in Texas several schools began school this week, with just about all of them offering a remote-only option.  My school is one of them, and we had a very successful first day.

As other schools begin the reopening process, it is apparent that remote learning will be with us in some capacity for the foreseeable future.  As discussed in my previous post, remote learning offers students safety measures during this pandemic; however, it also presents some challenges even for the most conscientious student.

I wanted to share with you some tips for not just surviving but thriving your remote learning experience.  Some of these come straight from our learning specialist and are highly beneficial for students with learning differences.

Make sure your tech works

Most schools that are offering remote instruction are doing so through virtual classrooms online.  Obviously this requires a certain amount of technology to do well.  Make sure you have everything you need before your classes start each day.  Computer, head phones, reliable internet connection, login access to your online portal, and any other tech required by your school.  Be prepared to troubleshoot if things do not work properly.  Know whom to contact at school if things are not working.

Limit distractions

It’s one thing to sit in an actual classroom with a teacher who can monitor attention and focus, but it’s an entirely different situation when you are sitting at your kitchen table all day.  It is important that you find a distraction-free place to work throughout the day.  Try finding a place that is quiet and allows you to spread out your computer, notebooks, and any other necessary materials.  And perhaps most importantly, turn your cell phone off for the day!

Set alarms

When students are in school they do not have to think about when or how they will transition from class to class.  At home, however, students are responsible for being on time to each class without the luxury of school bells.  I highly recommend you set a bell schedule at home.  Cell phones offer the ability to set multiple alarms, and this may be the easiest way to remind yourself of start and stop times.  But, as mentioned above, cell phones can be a huge distraction.  You can instead find an online alarm clock so you don’t have to use your phone.

Act appropriately

Students are craving interaction with their peers right now, and many have not seen their classmates in person for months.  As valuable a tool as Zoom is, it also can be a forum for silliness and other distracting behavior.  Many teachers allow for some free time on Zoom so students can interact with their peers.  But make sure you respect your teachers and avoid funny faces and inappropriate comments during your Zoom classes.  Your teachers will be grateful for your good behavior!

Set up a planner

Many of the online portals allow for pretty easy organization.  Hopefully your student’s portal is a one-stop shop for all their academic assignments, calendars, and other classroom resources.  I highly recommend that students print up their assignments for the week and have them handy.  Or even take it a step further and actually write the assignments down in a calendar or planner.  Having something concrete to look at each day will help reinforce the organizational skills students will need for remote learning.

Take breaks

A typical school day is long.  On average students attend school for seven hours a day.  One of the big concerns I had with remote learning is the amount of time kids will spend in front of a computer screen.  Although there is no general consensus on screen time for online learning purposes, anywhere from 1 to 3 hours seems about the most students can handle.  That means students must build in breaks throughout the day to maximize their learning potential.  During recess, advisory, lunch, and other elective periods, students should find times to “log off,” get a snack, go to the bathroom, take a walk, or play with the dog.

Be patient

We had a very successful first day of remote learning at my school.  But we also experienced some difficulties, particularly with our technology.  Every school in the world is in a similar situation.  Schools have been busy planning, but there is simply no way schools can plan for every scenario.  Rest assured that your school has probably spent months getting reading for remote learning.  If things are not working well right off the bat, just be patient.  School will adjust, adapt, and improvise to meet the needs of students.

Send your teachers and administrators a thank you

Maybe this pieces of advice is a bit biased, but I do think teachers and administrators need a ton of credit for pivoting so quickly to remote learning.  Many parents do not understand the enormity of transforming from in-person learning to remote learning, especially trying to do is successfully.  A lot of stress and anxiety went into the decision-making process, and even though not every schools’ plans cater to every students’ needs, I can assure you that teachers and administrators are doing the best they can.  Please make sure to thank them for all their hard work; I promise it will make a good impression on your student’s behalf.

Someday this pandemic will end and we will all be back to normal.  But until then, students who are proactive and embrace the challenges of remote learning will do the best. With some proactive measures, your student can not only survive but thrive during remote learning!