Stress and anxiety have a huge impact on your students’ mental health, especially when there is a big change in their routine and normal life, like the transition to online learning. How can teachers support their students’ mental health in the remote learning environment?
There are a few easy-to-incorporate tips that every teacher can use in order to create a pleasant, inviting, and engaging environment in the virtual classroom that can significantly help those students who are experiencing stress and anxiety.
Stronger together – build a sense of community
The lack of in-person contact and interaction when studying remotely can make students feel isolated and lonely. While learning in a virtual classroom has tons of benefits for the learning process, one of the challenges that students face is how to make friendships and fulfill their need for social interaction and experiences which are crucial for their mental health and development.
Building a sense of community in the virtual classroom can provide great benefits for everyone who participates – students, teachers, and even parents. There are a few steps that teachers can incorporate in their daily online lessons to achieve this friendly welcoming environment in the classroom where learners feel comfortable, encouraged and heard.
- Make sure that you include everyone in the lesson.
One of the biggest benefits of community for student mental health is that it gives young individuals the feeling that they belong. When learners feel included and their opinions and feelings are validated it gives them a sense of stability and helps them deal with stress, anxiety, and loneliness. How to achieve this goal? Encourage everyone to answer the questions during the lessons. Listen and be sympathetic.
- Include teamwork activities by using the breakout rooms in the virtual classroom and regularly put the participants on different teams to encourage interaction. Ask students for ideas and feedback and give them the opportunity to express themselves more comfortably by using the online whiteboard – they can draw, add photos, doodle, write, and create stories.
- Last, but not least, include the parents and the caregivers in the community. Keep them informed and engaged in the learning process. Encourage them to give feedback and suggestions and make sure that everyone feels heard and included.
Safety in the virtual classroom
The virtual classroom must be a safe place for students. While social interaction is not the same when studying remotely, some of its negative aspects, like bullying, continue to occur even when learning remotely. Bullying has an enormous negative impact on student mental health. Do your best to keep the virtual classroom a safe space where students can feel protected and heard.
- Create guidelines and rules of behavior in the virtual classroom and make it a habit to regularly go over them with your students. If needed, the guidelines can be updated with suggestions coming from their end.
- Teachers can also include open hours in their schedule for consultations or meetings with students if they feel the need to share what they are going through.
- Pay attention to any signs of stress or anxiety during the learning sessions in the virtual classroom.
- Make sure that students know how to reach you if needed and encourage them to share if they are experiencing any problems or have any issues with their classmates.
The importance of following a routine
Having a routine is one of the most powerful ways to decrease stress and anxiety and provide better support for student mental health. Structure your lessons in a way that gives students a good idea of what to expect from the learning session so they get the feeling of stability. Of course, don’t forget to add some fun and nice surprises to the lessons from time to time, like playing games on the online whiteboard, singing songs, etc.
These fun and exciting experiences will lift your students’ mood. The main idea of a routine is to make students feel more comfortable and relaxed, which makes it easier for them to enjoy the learning experience even when learning new, more difficult concepts and materials. The routine can include certain small habits, like a special greeting when starting the lesson, or an exercise break, singing songs, etc.
Adjust your expectations
The high expectations associated with the learning process can put stress on all of the participants, including the teacher. Every student is different and every class progresses differently. The pressure that high expectations bring on can negatively affect the mental health of both the students and the teacher. Keep the curriculum flexible to avoid focusing on meeting certain deadlines and milestones during the school year.
When the learning process is enjoyable, students will be more motivated to learn and explore, and they will achieve the goals. Having realistic expectations is key to not feeling stressed out and not placing extra pressure on your students which will increase their anxiety and stress levels. Keep it light and fun whenever possible, follow the learners’ speed, and adjust the lessons accordingly.
Mental health has a huge impact on one’s quality of life, ability to focus, and even the ability to have fun and enjoy experiences. Even small steps can make a huge difference in supporting student mental health. These include small habits to create routines and being open to listening and understanding what the learners are going through.