During this time of distance learning, I am reminded of the importance of connection.  As human beings, we are wired for connection. Being with others promotes our overall well-being, and relationships are at the heart of these connections.

It is during times of uncertainty that we need connection more than ever. How do we build connections when we are physically separated now more than ever? Check out some of our tips and tricks for staying connecting during this time of distance learning. 


Engage in two-way communication 

When connecting with families, engage in two-way communication. Ask lots of questions to gauge where families are right now; each family is operating in their own unique context. Be mindful that before we can bridge conversations about academics, we have to honor families’ social-emotional well-being.

Consider practicing empathetic listening, repeat back what you heard for clarification, and hold the space for genuine human interaction without any judgement attached. Acknowledge that we are all human and are all trying our best!

A phone call is a great way to show you care in this time of social distancing. Keep your phone call positive, and use it as an opportunity to get to know families and their child. Check in to see how they are, compliment their child, ask questions, and, most importantly, listen. (If you need ideas for how to launch these conversations, we have a sample script available for free on our website.) Personal, brief calls home and text messages are the lifeblood of relationships right now. 


Offer resources

Families are being inundated with so many resources that it can be hard to know where to start. Start by asking families what they need. Reach out to see what resources would support them, both academically and social-emotionally. Consider having a list of resources available to share. Send them 1-2 tools that will support the academic and emotional development of their child.

Springboard Collaborate has free resources available on our resources page with manageable, bite-sized tools for families and teachers. This includes a 4-week at-home reading coach plan with reading tip summaries and videos demonstrating reading strategies in action. It’s also available in Spanish.

Also, check out your local government for free resources available in your community, including food drop-off sites and other tools. 


Have fun!

At the end of the day, we are all adjusting to this new way of remote existence and learning what it means together. The exciting thing is there is a lot of space for creativity and to try something new, so have fun! I’ve seen lots of creative ideas from teachers – everything from sending selfie photos posing with their favorite book to teachers driving by homes with signs sharing “we are thinking of you!” Try playing Scattergories or another game with children and families, host a “coffee break,” or use Flipgrid to ask questions. Recently, we’ve tried hosting family workshops on Facebook Live and it has been a joy. There are tons of ways to have fun, and what better way to build connections than laughing together. 


In conclusion

Distance learning is something new we are all trying to figure out together. Let’s start with what we know works: building relationships with families rooted in connection, mutual trust, and joy.


Danielle is a life-long education advocate and lover of books. She started her career as a second grade teacher in New Orleans as a Teach for America Corps member and since then has served as a Reading Specialist, an Early Literacy Specialist with the Children’s Literacy Initiative, and an Assistant Principal of Instruction.