It’s a look teachers and parents know well: blank facial expressions, slumped shoulders, eyes that say “I’m so over this.” Many kids are tired of online school, the idea of Zoom fatigue seems to be real, and the demands of distance learning have students feeling totally burned out.
Meanwhile, many parents are burning the candle at both ends as they juggle work with the new normal of learning at home. Throw in the prolonged challenges and uncertainty of COVID-19, and it can seem like the stress just won’t let up.
And it’s only October.
Online classes and learning schedules have redefined the landscape of school, and clearly the roadmap to success is still a work in progress. This begs the question, what do we do if kids are already tired of their assigned remote learning? How do you prevent online school burnout?
Especially as those back to school resolutions start to wear off, kids need support, and parents need resources.
We get it, and iD Tech is here to help. Learning online can be exhausting, and going "back to school" when school looks much different is tough—but it doesn’t have to be a daily battle.
7 easy ways to combat school burnout
If you’re finding yourself in the middle of a “fall slump” with remote school, seeing your student’s motivation plummet, or just generally in need of guidance, we’ve put together a guide to surviving the reality of distance learning this fall.
1. Hold a remote learning conference
Think of this as a state of the union of sorts, but this one’s about how distance learning is going for your student. This is a great place to start collaborating with your child and making positive changes.
Try writing out the day’s schedule and utilize the power of open-ended questions to get your kids talking by asking your child to identify pain points and parts of the day they enjoy. Don’t sweat it if their least favorite class and lunch time appear exactly where you think they would. Honesty is key here.
Once that’s done, put your kid in the driver’s seat (metaphorically, of course) in developing solutions and improvements. Would a mid-morning stretch break help? How about brain breaks? Brain breaks are a great way to reinvigorate your students’ energy, even if they have just a minute or two to spare.
Think about and voice your needs in this conference too. Kids are a lot more perceptive than many people give them credit for, and an age-appropriate conversation about how to balance responsibilities at home can go a long way.
Remember to conclude your conference with a plan and a set time to evaluate the success of that plan. No one gets it right on the first try, so don’t be afraid to try something new, reach out to your child’s teacher, or later revisit something that isn’t successful at first.
2. Makeover your learning space
Where students learn sets the tone for how students learn. So, for the same reasons teachers change seating arrangements and classroom decor, switch things up in your child’s learning space.
What that will look like depends on your student’s age and personality; if you’re just getting started, here’s a guide to help!
Even if you kicked things off with the most Pinterest-worthy remote learning setup of all time, now is a great time for a refresh. Perhaps a Halloween theme will brighten things up. Post an example of an assignment your student aced, or better yet, had to put a lot of work into to succeed. Older students might appreciate something that links their learning to a future goal or passion project.
Talk with your student, set a budget (or gently let them know there isn’t one, but you’re there to help!), and give their learning space a mini makeover. It may seem like a small thing, but physical spaces speak volumes about expectations and attitudes towards learning.
3. Set (or revisit) goals and rewards
Remember those bright, shiny August/ September goals? No? (Start here.)
While the first day of school may seem like a century ago, October is an opportune time to circle back to the goals set back then.
Why? In many districts, parent teacher conferences are coming up. I'm sure we can all agree that surprises are best left for season finales, not parent teacher conferences.
Even if it’s too late to turn things around or celebrate your student’s success perfectly in the moment, coming prepared with points to discuss in this parent-teacher meeting will significantly improve the conversation. (And here's a parent teacher conference checklist!)
Plus, 6-8 weeks is a reasonable time frame for academic goal setting. If your student is burned out of learning online, it may be because they’re not aware of the progress they are actually making. They might feel stuck, lost, or like their work isn’t paying off.
Take a moment to remind them that mastery doesn’t happen overnight and positively reinforce good habits. Motivation can come from both intrinsic (intangible) and extrinsic (the carrot at the end of the stick; tangible) sources. You know your student better than anyone—it’s well worth it to help them find a meaningful motivator.
If you could use a few suggestions to get started, check out these ideas for motivating your elementary, middle, or high school student.
4. Manage your tech tools
Google Classroom, and Canvas, and PowerSchool/Infinite Campus oh my! The sheer number of different EdTech tools, each with different logins, platforms, passwords, and procedures needed just to get to school is dizzying these days.
Talk about a recipe for frustration. If your student is struggling to sign on, the motivation to learn can stop dead in its tracks. Plus, we don’t need to tell you that you usually don’t have time to pop out of a Zoom meeting to assist your student.
If technology troubles continue to be the source of your students’ remote school tribulations, we have a few recommendations to untangle the wires.
First, make a master list of every platform and login credential you and your student will need. After all, parents have their fair share of passwords to remember too in the world of learning online. Label each one by subject and maybe even add the information to a schedule your student can easily consult. Do yourself a favor and make multiple copies!
If a particular tool is causing confusion, set aside time outside the school day to practice. A no-pressure 15 minute troubleshoot session can take tremendous stress off of times your student will need to use it.
Many districts also offer webinars, guides, and even hardware and hotspots to help parents navigate online school. Check out what’s available at your child’s school, and don’t be shy with questions!
5. Adjust at-home learning routines
By now, you’ve probably heard all about how important daily routines are in making online learning successful.
A month or two in, it’s a perfect time to revisit some of those routines. Of course, you don’t want to throw your carefully honed schedule out the window. A bad routine, however, can be worse than no routine at all.
Doing this can be scary at first. When I was teaching, I sometimes found myself clinging to ineffective routines and rules that, once kicked to the curb, I couldn’t believe I stuck to in the first place.
At the end of the day, a great way to help your child succeed in their online classes is to not only develop routines, but to adjust them as needed.
For instance, if “outside time” has gotten a little stale, talk to your student about new activities that can make that time enjoyable. Maybe you’re noticing that mornings are better for some asynchronous assignment-tackling instead of at the end of the day, and a switch needs to be made.
One size definitely does not “fit all” with remote school, so take the time to find the right fit for your student. Often, the easiest time frame to make that adjustment is after the school day is over, especially in synchronous online learning. Strong after-school routines can make as much of a positive impact as solid routines during the day.
6. Keep teachers in the loop
Distance learning hasn’t exactly been a cakewalk for teachers either. My network of teacher friends say they have never worked harder or in such challenging conditions. The other common thread?
Teachers desperately want to help kids succeed. But like everyone else in the distance learning boat, they are in uncharted waters this fall.
So, take the first step towards refining the online learning process to maximize your child’s success. That doesn’t mean you need to flood teacher inboxes every day or even every week (in fact, that’s probably the last thing they need right now).
Start by sending a non-emergency email to your child’s teacher, or maybe just the instructor of the subject(s) where they need the most help. Be specific, honest, and action-oriented about what you’re observing; believe me, your kid’s teacher will thank you for that.
Share what you’re trying out to improve things and ask for their feedback and suggestions. To guide the conversation in the right direction, try one of these sentence starters:
I am noticing my child is struggling with ________. I’m going to try _______ and see if that makes a difference. I would love to hear any suggestions you may have to help them turn things around.
I’m sure you have a ton on your plate right now. When you have a moment, I would really appreciate some guidance with __________. Right now it’s creating a roadblock for my child, and I want to help them be successful.
This will get the ball rolling and start the conversation, and your child’s teacher will likely have valuable insights to add in a follow up email or phone call.
7. Step outside the box with alternative learning experiences
Not all remote learning is created equal. A personalized or small-group online learning experience sure beats a droning voice behind a PowerPoint presentation.
So, if your child is having trouble paying attention in a class of 30 or so kids or needs a change of pace, it might be a good idea to look into enrichment opportunities. (And here are some tips when it comes to Zoom for kids, touching on both safety and etiquette.)
Talk to your child about what they feel is missing from their routine. Maybe it's the opportunity to collaborate and socialize with peers, perhaps it's that they need the material presented differently to really engage with it. There are tons of resources for alternative learning online out there, and throwing something new into the mix could be just what the doctor ordered.
At iD Tech, we want to help kids not only survive but thrive in the online learning world. Whether you’re on the lookout for a great tutor or sifting through dozens of options for after-school programs, we are here to support kids and their families. Check our Semesters, Online Private Lessons, and math tutoring options to learn more!