Communication and family time key for online learners

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Highland and Lone Tree schools have both applied to the state for online learning waivers, which have both been approved.

Highland originally moved online on Nov. 17 due to a lack of transportation staff needed to get students to school and will remain in online learning through Dec. 2. Lone Tree middle and high school students transitioned to online learning on Monday, Nov. 23 and will remain virtual until Dec. 11. Elementary students will transition to online learning immediately after Thanksgiving break and will remain off-site until Dec. 11.

Lone Tree school counselor Shelby Bryce said this year’s transition back into online learning is proving to be very different than when schools moved online in March, at the beginning of the pandemic. In the spring, teachers we able to be more flexible with students learning online: assignments were optional and grades could be made pass-fail. But this year, the planned periods of online learning will not have the same flexibility.

“Last year, as educators, we all just thought, ‘It’ll be better next year, we’ll catch them up next year.’ Last year was one thing,” Bryce said. “This year, things are not optional— grades matter, it’s just like any other year in terms of tests, assignments, GPAs and all of that. This is a whole different level of stress for the kids.”

Bryce said, in the week before the transition to online learning, she observed stress at an all-time high for her students. Normally, if a student doesn’t do well on a test or assignment, they can work hard with their teacher to do extra assignments, ask questions and reassess on the next test. But many teachers aren’t giving tests during virtual learning, giving students less opportunity to make up ground.

“Everything is on hold for the next two or three weeks, until they can be back in school. That is very overwhelming,” Bryce said. “High school students are of a generation that’s used to immediate gratification— if something doesn’t go well, they can immediately work with a teacher to fix it and right now that’s totally different for them.”

Bryce stressed that communication is key during off-site learning.

“We’re going online for two weeks, but that doesn’t mean that their teachers or me as their counselor or the principals are dropping off planet Earth,” Bryce said. “Ever since we found out we’re moving online, I’ve been telling the students: This is going to be tough, but you’re tougher. You are not alone. If you need something, email, message, call, ask – don’t stew in your stress and let it build up into something detrimental, just reach out and ask someone for help.”

Bryce said the best way for parents to support their students during virtual learning is to invest in quality time at home. Doing things as a family, whether that be watching movies or playing games, exercising, or simply taking some deep breaths together will help stressed-out students cope as they learn from home.

“The important thing is to make sure that the time at home is quality time together,” Bryce said. “The students don’t get to see their teachers and have those friendly encounters at school – the hellos in the hallway, the little talks at lunch. I think that all educators are really hoping that the parents realize the kids will be missing that type of love and support at school and will make sure that they’re supporting their children at home through quality time.”

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