How Can We Support our Students During this Pandemic?

Young people need support and encouragement now more than ever. We can create a caring community for our students now - whether we're connecting at school or online. 

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to deepen, normal life has come to an abrupt halt in many parts of the U.S. To keep the virus from spreading, most of us are engaging in ”social distancing” and sheltering at home. Schools and businesses have closed in many places, and streets are almost empty. Based on what the experts are saying, this is only the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.

Young people, like adults, are feeling anxious, confused, isolated, and dislocated – at best. Many are facing even deeper crises, as family members lose jobs or get sick. Some students may have lost the one place in their life that has structure, safety, food, and caring adults welcoming them: school.

Normally, we educators can support young people by cultivating a warm, caring, and supportive classroom community where they can share how they’re feeling and get the support they need from each other and from adults.

But now school—the physical school—is closed.  Across the country, school district leaders, principals, and teachers are scrambling to assemble and deliver academic content to students online or by mail.

Young people need our support and encouragement now more than ever. And if our schools are going online, then we need to make sure our students have the capacity to go online too so that we can offer that support virtually. It is possible to create supportive spaces online that allow both educators and students to reconnect, share, and care for each another in this moment. Such spaces can help us build our collective strength and resilience. 

In the coming weeks and months, we'll be posting on TeachableMoment teaching ideas and resources to support students and adults during this crisis. See all our coronavirus activities and guidelines here. 

We must also keep in mind that 30 percent of families with school-age children don't have the technology needed for online support and learning-from-home programs. This gap must be closed. 

Below are some suggestions for working with students when you are able to connect online. See these additional tips for building online community during the pandemic.

  • If you have an advisory program, crew, or homeroom in your regular school schedule, translating that into a supportive virtual space is as important as the transitioning of the academic schedule.  
  • If you don’t have an advisory program to draw on, consider checking in with students when you first come together in your virtual space, followed by regular check-ins throughout the coming weeks and months as this situation continues to unfold and impact our communities.
  • When you gather with students, welcome them by name!  Show enthusiasm for them having joined you in the virtual space you’ve prepared for them. Rekindle and build connection.
  • Recognize who is missing.  Create a system with your students to reach out to those who are not able to connect using their laptops, tablets, or phones.  Consider snail mail if needed.
  • Be prepared to discuss the coronavirus and what is happening in their lives.  See these guidelines for talking with students about the new coronavirus in a face-to-face or a virtual space. See this suggested activity for welcoming students to your virtual community and opening up the conversation.
  • A first step in creating any caring community, either physical or virtual, is working together to come up with a set of community guidelines. In the virtual space, our guidelines need to reflect the specific challenges of this medium and the current moment.
  • To be present and available for our students, we adults need our own spaces to connect and support each other. Social distancing may be necessary in a physical sense, but that physical distance makes it even more important for us to stay connected and support each other virtually. These are challenging times and we cannot get through them (well) alone. See this activity for opening up a supportive virtual space for school staff.  Also see the virtual community guidelines Morningside Center staff created when we came together on Zoom for the first time after suspending our face-to-face work.