Many students, educators, and families are having a difficult time after losing their strong support system that was built through a positive school culture. School culture is the heartbeat of a school. The positive feelings, traditions, diversity of perspectives, and support that have been lost in the shuffle of moving to remote learning during this time.
School culture needs to be stronger than ever to support community members through this difficult time. It’s important to focus on building a school culture from afar to help support students’ wellbeing, learning, reflection, and development. Here are some things to think about when creating a school culture during remote teaching:
1. Tend to teachers-
Dedicated and loyal teachers are the keys to building strong school cultures. Teachers provide encouragement, motivation, and positivity to students and peers that are at the center of a strong school culture. During this difficult time, meet the needs of your teachers. Guide them to feel equipped to support their students academically, socially, and emotionally. Provide online professional development so they can still feel that they are growing personally. Create formal and informal opportunities for them to meet with their peers virtually. Have one-on-one meetings with each staff member to check in and see how they are doing. The more care and support your teachers feel, the more they will be able to do the same for students and create that positive school culture organically during this time.
2. Focus on Social-Emotional Wellbeing-
Social-emotional wellness for students right now will be key to building a flourishing remote school culture. Having school counselors host office hours for students and families, teaching online meditation or yoga classes for students, creating opportunities for students to informally share their feelings through a discussion board or virtual support groups, or filming daily social-emotional learning video lessons from an administrator or school staff member for students to watch are a few ways to focus on SEL while creating a school culture from afar.
3. Provide Normalcy-
Consider ways you can bring normalcy back into students lives from afar. Can you still have your daily community meetings online for students and families to attend? Is it possible for an advisory teacher to send out daily videos of advisory lessons to students so they can start the day with normal things like the pledge of allegiance, school pledge, or other normal advisory routines? Can you provide parents with resources so they could do the morning meeting if technology is not available? Would teachers be able to do as many normal classroom routines? Is there a way to virtually host morning meetings for elementary students to discuss social-emotional topics or facilitate relationship-building activities? Think through the normal day that a student used to go through, and try to replicate as much normalcy as possible.
4. Make Personal Connections–
School culture is normally thought of as community building in a large setting, but it’s truly built on individual relationships between students, teachers, and families. Encourage school staff to reach out to each individual student and family to offer your support or help during this time. Individual touchpoints help build feelings of community support and will allow students to feel the positive impacts of their school culture during this time.
5. Help Students Make Peer to Peer Social Connections-
Losing peer interaction for students can increase feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and sadness during this time. Finding ways to help students feel connected to each other will help build a strong remote school culture.
Give students an opportunity (if they want) to exchange phone numbers, email addresses, or mailing addresses. Help students make a group chat on an online platform. Create an online discussion board about different topics so students can share what’s happening in their lives, their feelings, and anxieties during this time of uncertainty. If teaching online classes, provide students with activities in the lesson to engage through debates, role-playing, and discussions. Simply verbally encourage students to reach out to each other during this time. Start out class with an icebreaker or whip around where students can share their feelings together (for example, roses and thorns is a good activity to use- https://www.edutopia.org/article/simple-powerful-class-opening-activity) Share resources that students can use to stay connected.
A few ideas of resources can be found in these links:
- 20 Free Interactive Collaborative Tools in the Classroom: https://www.emergingedtech.com/2014/05/20-excellent-free-tools-for-interactive-collaboration-experiences-in-the-classroom/
- 6 Collaborative Tools to Engage Students https://wabisabilearning.com/blogs/technology-integration/6-online-collaboration-tools-engage-students
If you want to discuss more about creating a school culture from afar, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org