By: Connor Kirkpatrick
Welcome to the Youth Work 101 Series! Student U started this blog series to support youth work practitioners, educators, advocates for young people, and after-school professionals in their work by sharing what has worked for us and by offering free resources each month on a best practice. Click here for this month’s resource for youth workers.
Hey, y’all. It is a heavy time of change in the world, and every day it feels like there is a new challenge to overcome, and Student U has been shifting every day to meet these challenges. This month, we want to share 10 ways you can support students and families during this time. These are just a few ways we are trying to support our students, and we wanted to offer them up as a jumping-off point to start a discussion of what we can do during COVID-19 to support students. So here are some tangible action steps we thought of:
10 Ways to Support Students During COVID-19:
- Show Up. What feels most vital right now is simply showing up. Whether that is a phone call check-in with students and families, a virtual tutoring session with students, or a quick email to say hey, it is so important that our students and families know that just because we can’t see each other in person, that doesn’t mean our community is gone. This time at home can feel particularly isolating and lonely, and much of our job now is to demonstrate that we are still here and ready to show up for one another.
- Listen Generously. For many of our students and families, their basic physical needs of food, housing, and education are at-risk. Ask what their needs are, and listen. You don’t have to jump into problem-solving mode because you probably are not going to be able to solve every problem, but you can listen, and respond with empathy. Understanding what students’ and families’ most important needs make us better able to respond to those needs.
- Send Resources. Once you know the needs of a student and family, you can then offer to send a list of resources that can meet those needs. If you are in Durham, Student U has composed a running list of COVID-19 community resources here. Look online at your local government’s announcements or other community organizations to see if there are other resources available.
- Dream Fearlessly. One of the most important things we can do at this time is to advocate for better social structures, including trying to mentally reimagine them ourselves. What should our education system look like? What does it mean that not everyone has health care in a global pandemic? If some of our social structures are breaking down and will need to be rethought or rebuilt, what do we actually want them to look like? COVID-19 has pushed educators, and now is the time to reinvent and get creative about what is possible. Invite students into these conversations.
- Create Learning Plans and Routines. Students want to learn, and it is so important to emphasize that they CAN continue their learning independently during this time, especially if they have access to technology. You can support this by creating a learning plan with students. This month, we are including a Student Checklist resource as a starting point. You can use this checklist to create learning plans with students so they can continue their education.
- Take Care of Yourself. LISTEN UP! Do you want to know the best way to show up for your students? Show up for yourself first. Okay yes, “Self Care” is a saturated topic of conversation these days, but for GOOD REASON! Get outside. Move your body. Go on a walk. Make your bed. Read that book. Stay informed, but don’t obsessively read the news. Sometimes the best self-care is doing those random chores that just put your mind at ease. Need some more ideas? Check out our Wellness Wednesday video series on our YouTube Channel. Okay, obligatory rant on Self Care over.
- Catch Up on Pop Culture. The most effective way to engage students is by making your activities culturally relevant to your students and talking to them about what they like. How do you do this? By being aware of what students are reading, watching, and doing. What are my students watching? On My Block and All American on Netflix, as well as watching a whole lot of TikTok. Speaking of which, you can follow Student U on TikTok where we post daily “Morning Brilliance” from members of our community.
- Affirm Their Brilliance. Especially for our high school and college graduates. Many of these graduating students will not get the celebration they were hoping for, but it is so important for us to celebrate their accomplishments. Graduating is SUCH an accomplishment. Write a letter of encouragement, send a congratulatory video, or maybe organize a drive-by parade. Former President Barack Obama will be holding a televised graduation event for the high school class of 2020 on May 16.
- Laugh Out Loud. In times of intense challenge, laughing breaks tension lightens the mood, and is necessary to stay positive. I’ve been watching “Some Good News” with John Krasinski, which is delightful, funny, and keeps me going. Call a friend that genuinely makes you laugh. Ask a student if their refrigerator is running. Laugh at how dumb that joke is. Talk with an English accent on every Zoom call you facilitate. Debate with a coworker whether or not Carole Baskin killed her husband. (She did.) Last week, Elon Musk and Grimes named their child “X Æ A-12”. I HAVE to laugh. Just break the routine a little to bring humor into their day.
- Love Well. At the end of the day, we are humans first, with the right to have our basic needs met and to live a life of dignity. We also need and desire to be loved by our community. So love well. Tell your students and families you care about them. Call your loved ones and tell them you love them. Love is powerful and transformative.
This month we are offering a Daily At-Home School Checklist for you to share with your students, which includes a Sample Daily Schedule and a checklist of things to do every day for Academics, Self-Care, and Enrichment. Click here to go to this resource.
That’s it! If you have ideas on other tangible ways to support students during this time, we’d love to hear them! Comment below, or email your thoughts to email@example.com.
Special thanks to April Warren, Radhika Deshmukh-McDiarmid, and Alex Lowe-Turner for input and creating the resource for this post.
See you next month.
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