Online Doesn’t Have to Mean Impersonal

As schools across the country close, many are looking to online models for sustaining instruction. Parents, policymakers and others have numerous concerns about the resulting effects on academic learning, child care, food security and the financial implications for staff whose positions become unnecessary during closures.

One additional concern that educators should consider as the crisis continues is the likely effect of these changes on students” social and emotional well-being.

Students are losing access to trusted adults, close friends and mental health care services. School closures and the broader concerns around COVID-19 are stress-inducing, and many students are entering this phase with underlying mental health challenges. As schools convert from in-person to online instruction, the need remains for continued personal connection and attention to the well-being of students and staff.

This will be influenced by much more than the quality of teaching, and the effects of these disruptions on their future success are likely to extend beyond academics. Educators across the U.S. increasingly recognize the value of supporting students” social and emotional development in addition to their proficiency in academic subjects. These include skills such as teamwork, social awareness, resilience and self-regulation. Teachers” support of such skills is important not only for students” academic success but also for their ability to deal with stressful situations. That commitment to whole-child instruction should continue even as the format of instruction changes.

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