Announcer:

This podcast is produced by Benchmark Education.

Kevin Carlson:

Distance learning. Remote classrooms. Virtual learning. How does this work? And how do you do it better? I'm Kevin Carlson, and this is Teachers Talk Shop.

Dr. Daniella Lukashok:

I think it would be very helpful to talk to them about what the experience of learning online has been like for them, maybe what's lost, not just pretend that, oh this is school as usual, and we're just going to be doing it online because it's not school as usual.

Kevin Carlson:

No, it is not. And we are all learning together. In this episode, we're not talking about the nuts and bolts of online instruction. We're talking about distance learning right now at this particular point in time during the coronavirus pandemic. And we're talking about how you can support your students, your own children, and yourself emotionally and psychologically as everyone adjusts to distance learning. We're joined by Dr. Daniella Lukashok, a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center. She also provides counseling at several New York colleges and is in private practice as well.

Dr. Daniella Lukashok:

I think for the most part the people that I'm talking to are expressing a range of reactions to the COVID pandemic. I mean, each one is reacting to this crisis obviously through the lens of their own unique points of view and their own unique experience. But there is one clear theme that I've started noticing that really cuts across all ages. And to me, it's the theme of loss, loss of the regular day to day life that young and old wish they could go back to, and not knowing how long it's going to be until they go back to their previous lives. Like when they could get together with friends, exercise at the gym, go to museums, concerts, travel. For kids it's when they were able to go to school, parties, of course, attending graduations. That really has kind of stood out to me.

Kevin Carlson:

We will return to this theme of loss in a bit. But, first, some ways to talk with students that helps to support them emotionally during distance learning. That's coming up after the break.
Looking for more information about distance learning? Benchmark Education has created resources to support teachers, students, and their families, all developed specifically with remote teaching and learning in mind. Learn more at benchmarkeducation.com.
Wendy Murray is the publisher of the PD Essentials line at Benchmark Education. And recently she spoke with Dr. Lukashok.

Wendy Murray:

In thinking about teachers and how they are at home juggling not only their own home situations, but also tremendously stressed about the students that they've, you know, bonded with for several months this school year. Do you have any recommendations for teachers engaged in this distance learning for kind of a style to adopt in not so much giving the lessons, but how to support them emotionally, psychologically, in the midst of learning?

Dr. Daniella Lukashok:

For so many kids, school is just a very safe space. You know, it's a structured experience. There are teachers and adults that care about them. They're fed, they're around friends, extraordinarily difficult. This particular teacher was telling me that she had kids do an assignment. When she got their assignments back, there was a lot about the current circumstances, COVID, that kind of had infiltrated, you know, their writing. And it made her realize that maybe she should try to really tailor a lot of her assignments or kind of just be really mindful of the context in which these kids are now learning and living and really try to engage that more directly. Kids are out of school and at home, their lives are profoundly disrupted. Their parents are extremely stressed and anxious. Everyone's all together.

And the other thing that comes to mind is the way we deal with crises, it usually is to come together in person to kind of comfort one another, to hear how we're all feeling about something. And that's been disrupted. Also, I mean, people are getting together over Zoom and trying to connect that way but it's not exactly the same. And I do think it's generating a lot of anxiety across the board, and young and old, regardless of your circumstances. I think uncertainty often brings up anxiety. It's very hard to tolerate not knowing under regular circumstances for most of us or many of us, let alone these kinds of circumstances. If you have children at home, you can sometimes talk to them about that and hopefully reassure them, say things to them, such as, you know, Your dad and I are taking a lot of steps to keep ourselves healthy and to keep you healthy. So, I mean, you have to acknowledge the reality, but to still try to provide some reassurance without sugarcoating the truth. I mean, I think it's important for kids to feel that they can really turn to their parents for a truthful version of the truth that they can understand and take in and make use of.

Wendy Murray:

So for a parent, what are some ways to talk to a child about what is going on that's both informative and makes them feel safe and really kind of by extension, you know, maybe teachers could take the same advice?

Dr. Daniella Lukashok:

The most important thing with them is to try to get an understanding first when your child comes to you with a question. Try to get an understanding of where that child is coming from, and what it is that they may be grappling with or what might be confusing them or troubling them, because then you get to kind of actually hear, what they really want to know and then you can kind of answer the question more effectively. And I think it's really important to try to think, as I mentioned before, to always give your children a version of the truth. The version of the truth that you think that they can hear and they can take in. You don't want to overwhelm them with, you know, graphic details, frightening information. They don't need to know any of that, but they do need to feel that they can turn to you to hear something truthful as a reliable source of information.

Wendy Murray:

We think for teachers when they're working with kids, with their students, the distance learning, what you were mentioning before about the middle school teacher who noticed that a lot of her students were talking and writing about the crisis directly, that teachers can kind of use that as a source of assuring them, because when the subject comes up through their feedback on a piece, they can convey words of, of you know, wisdom and reassurance.

Dr. Daniella Lukashok:

I think it's so important to be flexible and to maybe, maybe stray a little bit from what you might ordinarily do. So perhaps to, to make some time during the classroom for a kind of more open-ended discussion about what's going on and how kids are faring. Maybe to take some time, I think it might be very helpful to talk to them about what the experience of learning online has been like for them, what works, what doesn't work, maybe what's lost, you know, with them not being in class, what's maybe gained that perhaps those kinds of exchanges, I think might be very, very useful and helpful to kids. Not just pretend that, oh this is school as usual and we're just going to be doing it online because it's not school as usual, you know. Kids have a lot of other things on their minds right now.

Kevin Carlson:

After the break, how to help kids who are missing their friends. Have a topic in mind? Visit us at teacherstalkshop.com and submit your topic idea. Or need an answer about a teaching practice on the podcast? You can e-mail your questions and topic ideas to info@teacherstalkshop.com.

Wendy Murray:

Missing friends is a biggie for kids right now, obviously. Do you have any advice on how to support them with, with this? 'Cause they can't go out and play with their friends, but what could they do?

Dr. Daniella Lukashok:

I feel like it's a little bit easier with elementary school kids, right? Because their lives and their emotional lives are more focused on home and parents, typically, than friends. But it gets, I think, trickier and trickier when you get into the older kids, kids that are in middle school and high school. And that's where I think it's very, very challenging. And again, there are a lot of differences, like you'll kind of see the kids that are a little more social. I think they have an easier time kind of connecting with friends online. I've heard of all kinds of, maybe you've heard of Netflix, House Party, you know, where kids will get together and they'll watch the same movie, but they can also chat on the side or they'll have some Zoom meetings. But then you have those middle schoolers or high schoolers who are shy kids, you know, who are not that social. And I think it's very, very difficult for them. My nephew, who is around 16 years old, told me that he notices that a lot of kids now that they realize it's a serious situation, are kind of more respectful of social distancing, but they will go and kind of sit six feet apart on a knee on the stoop of a house and chat. That's one way for them to be together and to try to stay safe. Some kids are playing certain video games. I mean, not that we all love seeing our kids involved with their screens a whole lot, but I feel that with all of the stresses and the pressures that kids are under, maybe this is a time when you might make an exception and let a kid participate in one of those video games when they can kind of play with a lot of friends at the same time.

Wendy Murray:

Do you have any advice for how you might try to inspire children to kind of get out of themselves?

Dr. Daniella Lukashok:

I think it always starts with, you know, knowing your kid and just trying to find out what their thoughts are about such things. I mean, I do think that for some kids, it comes much more easily than for others. Maybe trying to kind of think in terms of what that particular child's strengths or talents or pleasures are, you know, and kind of going in that direction. And then I think the most important thing is to just, you know, to lead by example. You know, if you are someone who sews and you want to start making masks, you know, then it's much easier, I think, to maybe kind of engage your child in kind of helping out, maybe asking them how they want to help out. They see you doing it. They're more inclined to maybe think of doing something themselves.

Wendy Murray:

Have you noticed that there's this kind of upswell in creativity?

Dr. Daniella Lukashok:

I'm thinking again about the conversation I had with my nephew, who said to me that, interestingly enough, everything has calmed down on social media in this period, which in a way kind of makes sense 'cause kids are not really getting together quite as much as they usually do, and they're not doing as much. But what he noticed was that he noticed a lot of his friends were exploring all kinds of activities that they hadn't otherwise had time to kind of, you know, invest themselves in. And, you know, I think that when kids are home, and maybe at times a little bit bored, it maybe has given them an opportunity to kind of dig deep and try to kind of figure out, how to be engaged, engage themselves in a different kind of way. Although, you know, it's funny, my nephew said to me that he was hoping that this period of time would make adults understand that kids work too hard and they have so many stresses and pressures on them all the time and that maybe this will make adults aware that having a little less pressure can be really beneficial to kids, and helpful to them. And he was hoping that the parents would also understand that maybe they don't need to be working 'round the clock in the way that they do, not always. Or that they can kind of, if there's a way in which this will teach us to kind of see if there aren't some ways that we can kind of slow things down a little bit.

Wendy Murray:

Yeah. Yeah. No, I totally agree. I think that it's probably crossed many, many minds about how can our society learn from this. I mean, it's such a cliché of the work-life balance. And as you said right now, there's so many people are working even harder at home because their companies are struggling, struggling financially. And, you know, there's this, I'm sure, a smaller staff and all. But I do think that that is what's floating in our heads as a silver lining that, that we have got to get back to more kind of simple family time and alone time and, you know, listening to music and pursuing creative passions. So any other silver linings that you can think of coming out of this crisis in terms of relationships between teachers and students, and siblings and families?

Dr. Daniella Lukashok:

I have to tell you, I think the one you just articulated is the, is the main one, just really thinking a lot about what will the aftermath be. And, you know, maybe we'll finally understand that there's much more work that can be done away from the office than we may have previously thought of, and also just to really value hopefully what we have in our day-to-day lives, you know, once we get back to them.

Kevin Carlson:

Some final thoughts after the break. If you're a teacher, Benchmark Education invites you to select a free e-book library of your choice, specifically curated for families and educators to use at home. K-6 English, K-6 Spanish, or K-6 Dual Language. Each is supported by a free idea-packed At-Home Family Guide. Simply sign up to get instant access when you go to benchmarkeducation.com/distancelearning.

Wendy Murray:

Thank you so much, Dr. Lukashok. Do you have any final thoughts for us?

Dr. Daniella Lukashok:

Well, I'm thinking about this idea of loss that I mentioned earlier on in our conversation that I think so many people of all different backgrounds and ages are, are feeling. And I'm thinking that loss is a huge part of life.

And it's painful and it's difficult, but we all encounter it at some point or another, and so maybe here there's an opportunity for all of us, an opportunity to facilitate conversations about these losses and these pressures that everyone is feeling and a way to kind of help young people to kind of process what they're feeling. And I think from that can come tremendous growth and maturity, and a kind of emotional strength that hopefully, you know, can serve them well as they go forward. And serve all of us well as we go forward.

Kevin Carlson:

Thank you, Dr. Lukashok. We are going to continue discussing remote learning for the next few episodes. Next time, author-educators Patty McGee and Dr. Adria Klein explore an element of instruction that is foundational at any distance, the read-aloud.
That's next time on Teachers Talk Shop. I'm Kevin Carlson.

Thanks for listening.