Wellbeing and Socialization in Online Schooling
The American poet Maya Angelou once said, “I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.”
As we face an uncertain future under the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important that educators remember students’ well-being is as important as the knowledge they gain. For educators, parents and students the effects are causing a complete review of how education is delivered. All schools have had to quickly try and establish a system of “distance” or “online” learning to keep students moving through their curriculum and coursework.
Parents are analyzing the current effects this is having on their children’s mental health. They have become critical of the lack of teacher to student and peer to peer interaction. One important question parents are asking is, “how is my child coping with this new educational reality?”
How can schools help students cope?
Schools are entrusted to teach as well as nurture children. The Dalai Lama implores educators to remember the nurturing side of the child. He states, “Modern education is premised strongly on materialistic values. It is vital that when educating our children’s brains that we do not neglect their hears, a key element of which has to be the nurturing of our compassion nature.”
Parents will need to think about how to their child’s psyche fits into an online school setting. What is the long-term sustainability? In a world where permanent online schooling options feel far more feasible than in the past, it is important to properly evaluate whether it is in the best interest of the child to transition back into a brick and mortar school, or continue their personal and professional development online.
Structure of an Online School:
Full-time online schooling has a distinct structure and flow that parents need to understand. Education in an online school format is a lifestyle change for students. There are supports in place to help students (and parents) manage the transition so that students can have a successful learning journey. It can feel to new families like they have been dropped off in the middle of a desert with no water! However, schools can put in place a robust system of support for students during transition and onboarding, including:
- A welcoming onboarding process for parents and students by the teachers and administration
- Teachers who organize and structure a students’ Individual Learning Plan (ILP)
- Online Counselors who proactively reach out to student and parent in how to manage the transition to online schooling
- Ongoing counseling support for struggling students (and sometimes parents!)
- Easy to navigate lessons that articulate the curriculum
- Responsive IT support
- Regular Teacher to Student Communications via email, messaging and phone calls
- Live and recorded sessions with teachers on a regular schedule
- Individualized feedback to students on their daily work and assessments
- Regularly scheduled Parent-Teacher Conferences
How Do Full-Time Online Schools Socialize Students?
Online schooling is a definite change in lifestyle that affords parents and students tremendous flexibility in the study schedule to make schoolwork for their schedule. Socialization for students is something that online schools have to be very intentional about providing for students. Quality online schools provide families with opportunities to connect with activities such as school trips (i.e. Week Without Walls), museum visits, sports training, dance lessons, music lessons and then support students with school schedules that mold around those activities. In addition, virtual activities and events as reading club, quiz competitions, as well as storytelling challenges are some other ways to help students connect and know each other in times as these.
Why might online schooling become a permanent option?
Parents looking for consistency in their child’s education can find it in an online school. Consistency is an important factor in nurturing a student in school. Children crave reliability from their teachers. For example, a student in elementary school is likely to be taught by the same teacher for multiple years. When a teacher knows a student’s make up and approach to learning they can provide greater emotional support. The ultimate benefit is that student learning can naturally accelerate.
- Individual pacing
- Student learning style
- Previously bullied and need a secure environment
- School phobia
- Social phobia
- Medically fragile students
Knowing the right educational setting of a child is important to keeping learning seamless. Parents have more resources than previously realized to help assess if a full-time online school is the right place for their child. The benefits of an online learning environment could include:
- Students take ownership of their learning.
- Students are given the time needed to complete lessons
- Anonymity for students that otherwise may be a barrier to learning
- School work can be modified, and instruction provided at “just the right time”
The famous educator Maria Montessori said, “Education cannot be effective unless it helps a child open himself (herself) to life.” Parent, teachers, counselors, and administrators have the opportunity in an online school to surround students with the support they need to open themselves up to a challenging and fulfilling life.