One year ago, teachers, students, and parents scrambled to get connected virtually when in-person learning was halted because of the pandemic. Even school districts that had been using technology devices like laptops and tablets to provide learning apps to their students prior to March had to make adjustments so that all students were included in online learning. Heroic efforts by other school districts that hadn’t been as connected to technology included getting tech devices into the hands of students, providing hot spots to families who didn’t have access to the internet, and even hosting outdoor, socially distanced trainings for parents and students to show them how to use digital learning tools. Many people were concerned about the ramifications of distance learning, not only because of students falling behind academically, but because in-person school provides social interaction between peers and trusted adults. However, if you’ve watched your student adapt to distance learning, even with technical hiccups and confusing schedules, you know that distance learning isn’t necessarily distant much of the time. If anything, this huge disruption to traditional school has shown us just how important learning communities are and given many of us the chance to deepen our connections even from a distance. Here are five of the ways we’ve seen distance learning transform opportunity for students this year: 1. Teachers It’s been amazing to watch teachers adapt and innovate this past year. Many of them start video classes by warmly welcoming each student as they pop onto the screen. If you’ve had a chance to eavesdrop on your student’s video classes, you might also hear teachers checking in with their students to ask about how they’re feeling, offering them reassurance that we’re in this together, and telling them they’re missed. If you get a chance, reach out to your student’s teachers and thank them for their resilience and dedication. Even better, involve your student in this opportunity to practice gratitude. 2. Parents. Educators aren’t the only ones who rolled up their sleeves to cooperate with distance learning. Parents are more engaged and involved in their students’ learning than ever before, and teachers are very appreciative of their support. Teachers, if you get a chance, send a quick note of gratitude to parents who are managing their students at home even while doing their own jobs. 3. Students. Distance learning can be hard for any student. Find opportunities to praise your student, not just for a perfect test score, but even for attending Zoom classes. Encourage them to keep their camera on, ask questions, and participate in break-out activities with other students during the video class. Sit with them and ask them to open their tablet and show you some of their recent work. 4. Peer communities. Many schools are providing virtual ways for students to connect with each other through shared interests and hobbies. Book clubs, virtual music groups, and gaming clubs are healthy diversions that help students feel connected with each other and themselves. Take time to read the newsletters and updates your school sends out to see if there is an activity or interest that your student would enjoy and help them sign up. (As you know, most students won’t sign up on their own.) Also, coordinating outdoor study time with a few families within your “pod” can be a great way for students to support each other while doing homework. 5. Helpers. Extended family members are helping many parents manage their student’s schoolwork, which can help reduce friction by removing the parent from a “teacher” role. Also, if your student has an IEP, make sure you’re taking full advantage of the resources your school is providing to students who need extra accommodations. Tutors, whether online or in person, can be a great source of support. One of the most popular features of our virtual school is our Live Tutor Chat. Students and parents appreciate the opportunity to connect with a live person for help, and we recently expanded our hours to include Sunday afternoons, a popular time for catching up on schoolwork. About Apex Learning Virtual School As an established virtual school, we have a long history of connecting with students where they are to help them achieve their academic goals. Whether it’s called distance learning, remote learning, or virtual learning, helping students have “aha” moments and truly develop curiosity and a love of learning is what motivates us as educators. Considering a virtual school for your student? We’re here to help. www.apexlearningvs.com.