Written by Olga Shkolnikov, Tutor of Greatness for Enhanced Prep
Over the course of the last months, the entire world has been adjusting to a new life and a new normal. One of the most drastic and sudden changes has been schooling. In a matter of just days, so many students, teachers, and families were expected to begin virtual schooling with little to no preparation. While we have all been doing our best to power through another Zoom meeting and continue staring at our screens, it’s important for us to acknowledge the mental and emotional toll of our situation.
Due to the pandemic, we are not just participating in online learning. We are part of emergency remote learning. With that in mind, there are certain important steps that students can take to maintain connection, stability, and motivation for the remainder of this chaotic school year. Using my experiences as a high school student teacher in NYC, the epicenter of the virus, I have compiled some great tips to help with an easier adjustment, healthier mindset, and better learning experience.
Let’s begin with something that impacts mood, memory, performance, and just about everything else: sleep. With lots of change and a lot of unknowns, sleep seems to be drifting away from us. And let’s be honest–most students, especially high school students, were already sleep-deprived before the pandemic even began. While you may not be able to change a sleep schedule overnight, it can be done gradually. Each night, aim to go to bed about 20-30 minutes earlier than the previous night. Keep adjusting your sleep schedule one night at a time until you are at a bedtime that allows you to get at least 8.5 hours of sleep, which is the recommended minimum for teens.
Even after a long night of rest, it may still be difficult to concentrate on school work or it may feel overwhelming, especially without the usual in-person interactions. By using the Eisenhower Method, you can better prioritize your tasks and avoid feeling like there is just too much to handle. To use this method, you can draw one large square and divide it into 4 equally sized squares. In the top left square, write down the most important tasks that need to be done that same day. In the top right square, write down which days you will complete your other tasks during that week. In the bottom left square, write down who you can ask for help. In the bottom right square, write down tasks that can wait until the next week.
If you are still feeling overwhelmed, please make sure to reach out to your teachers. Keeping this to yourself and not submitting assignments will only create more negative feelings for you, including anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Your teachers know this is a challenging time, and many are willing to make adjustments to make sure you are still a successful learner. If there are assignments you haven’t submitted, submit them as soon as possible. If there are options to resubmit for higher grades, take advantage at your pace.
Whenever possible, stay connected to the people and things that bring you joy. This may mean using the screen-sharing feature of Skype or other video platforms to watch Youtube videos with your friends. It may mean being more creative in the kitchen with new recipes, cuddling with your dog, or completing at-home yoga sessions or workouts. Whatever connection and joy means to you, take time for yourself to feel moments of peace. Take it one day at a time. Remember that this is temporary, and you will make it through.