5 tips for a positive back-to-school experience

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Heading back to school can be an exciting yet challenging time for students, teachers, and parents alike. While many school systems are returning to full in-person learning, some students are taking advantage of virtual or hybrid learning models their school may offer.

Hybrid learning serves as a great option for students–however, in the early days of pandemic virtual learning, teachers noticed the need for stronger tools and resources in order for them to create the best possible learning experience.

With the hybrid learning model here to stay, many teachers are continuing to struggle with keeping their students engaged, while some learners find it difficult to stay motivated and pay attention to instruction.

Another major challenge within the hybrid learning model is the development of social-emotional skills. As learning turned completely virtual with the onset of the pandemic, developing social-emotional skills became a major challenge. A recent study found that over half of parents surveyed felt the pandemic had a negative impact on their child’s social-emotional development. The study also found that 53% of early childhood educators noticed behavioral changes throughout the pandemic, and of those who spotted changes, 77% felt they included negative behaviors, such as temper tantrums or sadness.

As we head back to school this fall, whether it’s fully in-person, hybrid, or completely virtual, here are some of my tips for a successful start to the school year:

1. Strive for at least one personal connection each day. As an educator, it’s important to challenge yourself every day to make sure you’re in tune with how your students are feeling so you can help facilitate a positive classroom environment. Whether in-person or online, an easy way to start a personal connection is by asking a question to each student. It can be a writing prompt or just a casual question throughout the day to form a connection and better relate to each student. Some examples of questions include: What do you want me to know about you today? What was your favorite part of the day? What was your biggest challenge? What did you eat for breakfast this morning? As you can see, these questions can be as simple or as complex as you’d like them to be, but it’s something that can be done in a hybrid setting to ensure your students feel connected both online and in-person. It also challenges them to reflect on their day and their feelings, so they can learn how to understand their emotions and better their communication skills.

McKenzie Sutherd, Teacher in Residence and Social Media Lead, Class

McKenzie Sutherd is the Teacher in Residence and Social Media Lead at Class. In her role, Ms. Sutherd empowers and inspires educators in areas of virtual learning, innovative instruction, and social presence. Most recently Ms. Sutherd was an elementary school teacher where she and her class rose to fame as they created a movement to raise awareness and funding for non-profit organizations. Ms. Sutherd has a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Science from Oregon State University.

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