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Strategies to Help Students Manage Remote Learning and Self-Care

Health, Safety, and Well-being Student Success Orientation, Transition and Retention Faculty Mid-Level New Professional Senior Level
Joanne Goldwater

No matter how you look at it, challenges abound for all of us. Many of us are in the trenches trying to provide support to our students. Our students at St. Mary’s College of Maryland engaged in fully remote learning last spring and are doing hybrid learning this fall (meaning, students can choose to attend classes in-person, fully remote, or a combination of the two). We know that some students might be feeling stressed and overwhelmed. The Office of Student Support Services created a list of strategies to help students manage remote learning and self-care. (Some of these tips are also applicable to staff and faculty!)

  • Many institutions have instituted tele-counseling and some have 24/7 counseling hotlines. Make these resources widely known to your students. Remind students who are fully remote that If they wish to speak face-to-face with someone, they can try to find a therapist in their local community. If possible, try to create a list of resources in your high population areas that you can share with those doing remote learning.
  • Remind students (and faculty and staff) to engage in some self-care on a daily basis. No one expects students or employees to work as if everything is normal right now. We are all easily distracted, unable to focus like we did earlier earlier in the year, and we may not be as productive while we are learning/working remotely, etc. Do what you can and remember, there's always tomorrow. Focus on what you can reasonably do each day and try to do it. Relax a little bit. Go for a walk or engage in some form of exercise. Eat nutritious meals. Get 8 hours of sleep (seriously... 8 hours, not 12 or more!). Go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday. Listen to soothing music. Listen to some wonderful, free apps (meditation, hypnosis, sleep apps) or podcasts so you have something else to do besides homework or housework (and maybe to help you relax, sleep, etc.). You don't need to do self-care for 3 hours every day, but at least 30 minutes would be really helpful.
  • Get out of bed every morning, make your bed everyday. Brush your teeth, take a shower, wash your hair, and get dressed (no sweats!). Try putting some things away and decluttering. Get some fresh air everyday. A Washington Post article (4/23/2020) indicated that doing these actions can help you develop a consistent routine which may help you feel more in control and are intentional actions that you can take to change your mind-set.
  • Ask for help. Many people don't like to or are fearful of asking for help. As noted in a Washington Post article (4/23/2020), think of asking for help as an opportunity to connect with someone else. Understand that your request for help will probably be granted. Please know that you are not the only one in need of help these days. Embrace the idea that you'll be making the other person feel good. Consider it a way to get closer to others. Be specific about what you need. It takes practice to get comfortable asking for help; but it gets easier with time.
  • I like to ask students, “What’s your favorite cake?” When they tell me, I then say, “Imagine that cake is sitting in front of you. How do you eat that cake? Do you stuff the entire cake in your mouth?” The answer is always no. So I follow up with, “So, how do you eat it?” The answer is usually “I cut a slice and eat it.” “The entire slice, all at one time?” “No; bite by bite.” That, I explain, is how you need to handle your outside-of-class work. Break up the large assignments into smaller bites/tasks. Create a list of assignments that you need to do. Indicate each step that you need to take to complete the assignment and write down when you will do it and where (be specific!). This is the What-When-Where strategy. You need to determine what you're going to do, when you're going to do it and where you will do the work. Then, as you finish each smaller task, cross it off your To-Do list. Once you start seeing some items getting crossed off, that might be the motivation you need to help you continue.
  • Create a website for your students with helpful resources. Our “Student Support for Remote SMCM” Google Site includes academic coaching tips, academic policies specific to COVID-19, information for students who are receiving ADA/medical accommodations while doing remote learning (including information on assistive technology while remote), navigating life outside of our college (including food assistance programs in high population areas, employment, WiFi access, childcare resources, scholarships and emergency funding, home/auto insurance), organization and planning tools, links to our student success videos, Title IX information, tutoring, and Wellness Center resources.
  • Encourage students to reach out to their instructors to engage in discussion if they are having any difficulty understanding concepts, they wish to engage in additional conversation, etc. Many students are reticent about talking with their instructors. Help them understand that faculty are eager to connect with students!
  • Academic Advisors are helpful resources. Help students connect with them if and when needed. I have shared this information with many of our students. I hope this is helpful to you as you continue to provide support to your students.

I have shared this information with many of our students. I hope this is helpful to you as you continue to provide support to your students.

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Joanne Goldwater is the Associate Dean for Retention and Student Success at St. Mary's College of Maryland. An educator for almost 40 years, Joanne is active in NASPA as the Region II Co-Representative on the Orientation Transition and Retention Knowledge Community, and has served in leadership positions and as a frequent conference presenter in ACUHO-I (Association of College and University Housing Officers - International) and MACUHO (Mid-Atlantic Association of College and University Housing Officers). A career highlight was the creation of the MACUHO Joanne Goldwater Distinguished Senior Housing Officer Award in 2015

Twitter: @jagoldwater

Facebook: Joanne.Goldwater.9

Facebook: @smcm.studentsupportservices