If anyone ever had a doubt about the fact that teaching is, in part, an emotional activity, the fallout from remote learning makes it self-evident. What do I mean by “fallout”? While some students have prospered in the virtual learning format, many, including many strong students, cannot get motivated due to the lack of the kind of emotional connection with the teacher and their peers they experience during in-school learning. This becomes a slippery slope as this lack of connection diminishes motivation to attend online classes and do the homework, resulting in confrontations with school and parents. What can be done?
While we are waiting for herd immunity and the consistent opening of schools, teachers and administrators can build individual time into their schedules for meetings with students individually or in dyads. Some schools are already doing this although, at times, this only happens when students are having a difficulty. I am talking about setting aside regular time in their schedules for all students to re-establish an emotional connection that is hard to establish and sustain in full class virtual lessons. The amount of time can vary by student. However, in this way, each student can feel considered and connected.
Of course, where will the time come from? Even in pre-covid times, the pressure to push the curriculum forward makes this kind of connection hard to schedule without faculty worrying about falling behind. Well, if keeping that connection were considered as important as conveying course content, then time can be found.
These are extraordinary times and they require extra-ordinary means to address the missing “personal touch” that in-school learning ordinarily includes. It is important to keep students’ motivation and hopefulness afloat as covid drags on. It is sad to see even strong, highly motivated students fall behind because of the absence of the personal connection. Paradoxically, kids who did not like to school now year for the regularity of contact it affords. Granted, some of this is contact with peers. Nevertheless, we must begin to consider the emotional aspects of learning as equal to if not more important than just accruing subject matter. This was true prior to covid and it will true after covid ends.
While teachers cannot “hug” their students, they can do it with words. They just need a time to meet and share. Faculty will benefit from the reciprocal interchange as well.