The coronavirus pandemic is testing the relationships between teachers and students as the transition from managing those connections in-person to online proves challenging, according to The Hechinger Report. For many at-risk students in particular, teachers are their main source of stability.
Closures are exposing how important these relationships are. To make in-person connections, educators in a Massachusetts district, for example, recently held a three-hour car parade that drove by each student's house.
Many educators are still trying to re-establish connection with some of their students, with lack of internet or devices, language barriers and family illnesses cited among reasons.
The loss of these connections and their social-emotional benefits may emerge as one of the greatest negative impacts of school closures. Rather than worrying too much about academic performance, some teachers are working to maintain relationships through online learning platforms. This is particularly crucial for students already at-risk prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
In some areas, a framework for online bonds between adults and students was already developed prior to the pandemic. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay’s Mentor 2.0 program, for example, matched students with mentors who often met and maintained relationships virtually. For this program, the combination of online and in-person meet-ups allowed those involved to develop close bonds, as virtual chats allowed consistency in connection.
Erin Souza-Rezendes, director of communications for MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, previously told Education Dive online mentoring offers more accessibility.
“E-mentoring models can combine the best practices of relationship building with new and evolving technology to meet young people where they are,” she said.
But for students who have been exposed to adverse childhood experiences, losing touch with a trusted teacher or other adult during school closures may be traumatic. Students need regular “touch points,” or targeted interventions and interactions with trusted adults whose regular contact can allow the healing and improvement of mental and physiological health.