Practicing Social DISTANCING and Social CONNECTEDNESS

Today marks the first day of mine and all the staff in our district’s work remotely directive. I will tell you what….working remotely is hard! As adults, we strive on our ability to be socially connected to others; in fact, it is hard-wired into our DNA. I never use Wikipedia, but THIS resource actually used the words I was looking for. As humans, we strive and seek our connection. Whether or not we are introverts or extroverts, it is hardwired for us to feel connected. As countless educators from across the country shut themselves away into their homes to attempt teaching “digitally,” we must recognize the importance of social connectedness.

Increasingly, social connection is understood as a core human need, and the desire to connect as a fundamental drive. Baumeister, Roy F.; Leary, Mark R. (1995)

Legit, my email has been out of control with emails from everyone, instant messaging is dinging every 10 seconds, phone is blowing-up, AND I have gotten very used to this sound….

Then it hit me this morning, as educators, we need to feel connected to one another. If I were to shut myself away, then I would be preventing someone from feeling connected. I am not saying that people just love to chat with Ben White, but I am HIGHLY accessible and always on. This instant gratification of knowing someone is always available is something we must remember but also be careful with. There are many positives to reaching out to someone and always knowing they will be there to answer, but for the person answering, it can begin to be overwhelming. With that being said, below are My 5 Tips to Social Connectedness in the COVID-19 Era.

1. Consider Video and Chat over Email

Now that we are all in the virtual environment, the need for instant connection is profoundly needed. Writing emails a few weeks ago may have been considered fairly quick; however, now an email is almost like sending a written letter in this new era of virtual learning. By using platforms such as Google Hangouts and Google Meet, are much more instant and satisfy that need for in-person communication. Think about how many emails someone might have and think about the impact that an instant response may have and how you may feel much more connected in knocking on someone’s digital door and getting an instant response.

2. Set Virtual Office Hours

As we go completely virtual, you may be feeling this is actually more work than before. This is true in the sense that you are ALWAYS CONNECTED. Although it is essential to be available for your families and students, you do need to balance the personal impacts in your own life due to COVID-19 while recognizing the impacts on the families you are serving. This is something I have not implemented this myself, but after going through my first official remote workday, I am highly considering it. Instead, set up “virtual office hours” Make meetings optional and be relaxed. No need to be frustrated when no one shows up: students are still happy to know that this option is available.

Students can work together in small groups to support each other online. Rawpixel.com.Shutterstock

3. Relationships, Relationships, Relationships

When we are in schools, our first and most powerful impacts are seen through our relationships with students and families. Now that we move to the virtual environment, the need for relationships is not decreasing but rather exponentiating! Please make sure to be prioritizing your communications with families and, most importantly, make it personal. Show them that you are human as well and connect with your stakeholders not just through academic instruction but through humor and fun 🙂 Below is a great local resource that highlights this:

5. Disconnect

Taking this one from George Couros as it really speaks to the reality of teaching online and why we need to disconnect.

Although I started with suggestions on the importance of “connection” with people, I think it is vital to “disconnect” from too much information.  I am looking to expert websites for information, but I am trying to stay off of social media because COVID-19 is everywhere right now. Watching sports has also been a release for me, and now games are basically canceled.  TikTok was also a getaway with funny videos, and now it has been overtaken by COVID-19 toilet paper jokes. Websites are all talking about this, podcasts, news (obviously), and it seems you can’t get away from the constant conversation. Personally, this is not good for me. By “disconnecting,” I am focusing on time with my family, watching movies, playing video games, playing guitar, working out, etc. I am a big believer in the idea of what you feed your mind is what you become.  Be thoughtful of spending too much time digging into endless amounts of information….

To read the FULL AMAZING BLOG post from George Couros see below:

In Closing…

Take a moment to think about how other are being impacted by current events and focus your approach on maintaining connections and the academic instruction will come easy once you understand the new learning needs of your students and families.

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