Keeping Community Alive in a Virtual World


Education, for better or worse, is at a crossroads right now. The topic on everyone’s mind this summer was, “What are you doing about school?” Most schools are going one of three ways: all in person, all virtual, or all hybrid. Yet we know community is the heartbeat of education. Teachers know what kind of day a student might have as soon as that child walks into the classroom. Are they smiling? Tired? Cranky? Are they walking slow? Sprinting into the room? Are they acting like themselves or are they a little off? How do you gauge this when you are seeing them behind a mask or screen?

I love teachers because of this work we do. Here are some helpful tips for bringing the community into your classroom, whatever that looks like right now.

Be there.

We are all under an enormous amount of stress. Parents are juggling, teachers are juggling, teachers who are parents are really juggling. Just as they always have, kids can tell when something is wrong. Before you start your class, take those deep breaths that were good for you before Covid. Have a mantra, “I can do this. I can breathe through this.” Show up for that one lesson with the same eyes you had before – noticing, loving, and caring about the other faces in front of you. Jot things down that might help you build connections. Maybe you notice a student has a lego set in the background of their screen. Or they never turn their screen on. Use this in your lessons, in your conversations, wherever you can. Find a time to reach out and connect so you can be there with them.

Take your time.

This is not a sprint, it is a marathon. We all know that districts and states and schools have high expectations for what you are going to achieve this year. Don’t forget you are in the driver’s seat. Leave yourself 5 minutes at the end of every class to connect. Have your students share their favorite “dad jokes.” Do a weekly dance party. (We did this last spring and it was AMAZING.) Have a message board or website, or some part of whatever platform you are using, to have students send their favorite quotes or funny pictures. Take the time to connect with your students.

Do this together.

I saw someone post something on Twitter asking for parents and students to be patient with her dad, a teacher. Her dad is in his 50s and struggles to use technology but is being asked to use technology in many new ways this year. She said he called her to practice using the new technology. Can we all send this message to each other? One of the greatest successes for my class this past spring was that we were all forgiving each other constantly. Did a parent lose that packet again? No problem – we are all in this together. I’ll get that for you a second, third, fourth time. Did you forget to send the correct link for an assignment? Apologize and ask for forgiveness from your families. We are all in this together. Is there a student who struggles to show up and you call and text and email and you are unsure what to do? Let them know it is ok, you know they are struggling. Forgive them, keep trying, at least they know you care. Remember, we are all in this together.

Note: Fresh Ideas for Teaching blog contributors have been compensated for sharing personal teaching experiences on our blog. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.


About the Author

Megan Howe

Teacher and Children's Book Aficionado