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A high school girl attending class remotely with her laptop and headphones.

Remote Tips For Your Kids (And You)!

June 10, 2020

We are exhausted, we are stressed, and we are being bombarded by people telling us how to live our new lives. Society’s new normal is finally settling in for many families — the reality that we might be home for a long time. With this new normal comes another adjustment for our families. How do we dive into our new routine, despite the fact that we want nothing to do with it?

For parents, the impact is felt to an even greater extent but, as my colleague Kristen Power describes, we need to “be mindful. Eyes are watching you. During stressful times, children look to you as role models. If you become stressed and anxious, your child could as well.” With this in mind, it is important to lay out new ground rules for the new normal, as well as adjusting previously held rules around the house that may no longer work for your kids.  A few of these could be:

  • If your child’s school has a “no cell phone” policy during school hours, try to keep the same policy at home.
  • Allow your kids to find a “virtual workspace” at home, that is not in the same place as their “virtual playspace.” Emphasizing a professional home-work environment helps with focus, while not eliminating the comfort of home.
  • Check your internet bandwidth — test a Zoom meeting with your entire family to see whether or not you need to call your internet provider. If the bandwidth is too small, increase it.

There are, of course, many more to add to this list. Generally speaking, I’d encourage you to make an actual list, and write out the new rules you are adding for the family and those you are adjusting. This will be helpful as well when we return to the old routine once that time comes.

Now, for your kids. I know, I promised I’d get here. As my friend and former colleague, the legendary Bruce Berk would say, “if you aren’t listening, listen now”...

Kids these days — I sound so old — Kids these days are digital natives. They are experts, and we are novices when it comes to the depths of social media and virtual engagement. I’ve tried playing Fortnite a few times, and it was a sad thing to see. Helping our kids adjust to this new normal will be challenging, because parents will be doing a lot more managing expectations. Normally, with all of this time at home, screen time on social channels and engagement with peers would be at an all time high. The temptation for some parents will be to hyper-manage their child’s screen time. However, we know it isn’t as simple as this (see the rule about school cell phone policy above). On the flip side, we need to, as Kristen describes, “encourage connectivity. Your children are no longer able to get together with their friends or teammates. Encourage them to maintain these relationships by connecting over Zoom, FaceTime, or Skype.” There is a balance here that you need to find with your kids.

Many of our schools are moving to a virtual learning environment, with new tools, schedules, and activities for students to pursue at home. Some of the best videos I’m seeing on Twitter are of students in virtual phys. ed classes at home, playing around the house. So cool to see. There is a ton of great information out there, and in EMA’s COVID-19 Resources around selecting tools to use with your kids. For the sake of avoiding redundancy, I’m going to focus on one new set of new rules for video meetings. For your kids. In addition, because I know kids like this kind of thing, I’m going to break it down into three categories: basic, intermediate, and advanced virtual learning skills. 

Basic: You really shouldn’t be in class without doing these things. 

  • Turn camera ON.
  • Find a place to be on camera, where your head is centered.
  • Ensure your internet is working well (speed test).

Intermediate: This is how you show your teachers you’re focused and determined to get the most out of class.

  • Keep background noise to a minimum — mute yourself unless you are talking.
  • Ensure you are front-lit. You don’t want to look like you’re in witness protection.
  • If you use a virtual background, make that background school-appropriate. Shutterstock has some great ones!
  • Dress to impress — follow your school’s specific dress code while in virtual class. Show your teacher you got ready for the day prior to class.

Advanced: You can be the “class captain.” Employ these techniques:

  • Use headphones during class and always have yourself muted, unless talking. This helps avoid 100% of background noise.
  • Use the chat feature on many platforms to ask questions that don’t need an immediate answer. Allow your teachers to maximize their time with you on camera. Better yet, preface those questions with “FOR LATER:.”
  • Keep normal class eye contact in place the whole time. Show your teacher, with facial expressions, that you are engaged the whole time. Don’t be in a space that allows your eyes to wander, unless it is to take a note, or reach for your keyboard.

This is just a selection, and I’d love to hear more ideas from you all. Feel free to Tweet at me (@colbyemorgan) or send an email (cmorgan@enrollment.org) with more suggestions, or stories of your kids in their virtual classrooms. I hope these new routines settle in nicely, and we are all finding the fun in this time with our families. 

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