Ask any high school student about how well they’ve been able to connect with their teachers this year, and they will tell you it’s been hard. Making personal connections across computer screens can certainly be done one-on-one, but it is challenging in a class full of other students. Teachers and students are juggling a lot and doing their best. In truth, building a stronger teacher-student relationship may not be possible until a return to campus, but in the meantime, students can try to remain as engaged as possible and at the very least, show their teachers they are engaged.
This effort to show engagement is a win-win for all. We think that it will reduce some of the stress of going to school online while also gaining the benefits that can come from a closer connection with the teacher and the class. A student who is making a conscious effort to engage will probably absorb the material better and enjoy the class and their teacher more—which could lead to more success in the class. For many students, liking their teacher gives them the motivation they need to put more effort into their work. And for those looking to apply to college in the coming two years, engagement can bring a secondary benefit. Their efforts to connect could lead to stronger recommendation letters from their teachers.
But how do you do all of this in a virtual world, or in a socially distanced, fully-masked classroom that may only be in person two times a week? How can a student show their teachers they care about the class, even if it is not one of their favorite subjects?
Our suggestions for students
- Always arrive to class on time and ready.
- Keep your camera on with your shoulders and face fully on the screen. Good lighting makes a big difference, so face a window or use a lamp or a ring light to light up your face.
- Sit up and look interested. Smile occasionally!
- Don’t wear pajamas or snugglies, and keep your hood down if you wear a sweatshirt.
- Finish all of your assignments on time. And don’t forget to turn them in!
- Keep up with all of the assigned reading so you can contribute to the discussions.
- Ask questions and contribute to the class conversation. If you have a thought about something that no one else has expressed, share it!
- Answer your teacher’s questions. Try to understand and empathize with your teacher. This is hard for them as well. It can be frustrating, even disappointing, when no one is engaging with them, so you be the one.
- Be helpful and talkative in small group breakouts and carry your weight in projects and small group discussions—this can be an opportunity to practice taking the lead.
- Attend teachers’ office hours when you need help, but also if it is a subject you are very interested in, just to talk a bit more about it with the teacher.
- Ask for a one-on-one appointment with the teacher. It doesn’t need to only be for help; it can also be just to connect and show interest! Plan for the meeting with some purposeful questions and know the specific issues or topics you want to discuss.
- Thank the teacher every day!
So, students, with vaccines rolling out and states loosening their restrictions, odds are you will be returning to partially or fully in-person learning in the coming weeks and months. With the exception of suggestions pertaining to your cameras, all of the above still applies! Come to class ready to show interest, sit toward the front, try your best to be inquisitive and contribute to the discussion, and finally, when you can, push yourself to take the lead in small groups. You will see the benefits of this pretty quickly. And always remember teachers are human; they are often as overwhelmed as you, so do your best to be helpful, appreciative, and kind, it’s a win-win for all.