Remote Learning and Mental Health: Best Practices and Potential Pitfalls

remote learning and mental health
(Image credit: Unsplash: Tim Mossholder)

In this unprecedented period of extended remote learning, the mental health and well-being of students has been a concern, from students feeling isolated and dealing with depression to handling social-emotional challenges and experiencing long-term trauma.

Tech & Learning recently discussed remote learning and mental health with Dr. Peter Faustino, a school psychologist for a public school district in Westchester County, New York, and Shawna Rader Kelly, a school psychologist in Bozeman Public Schools, Montana. Both are members of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).

Key Takeaways

Teacher appreciation. By embracing innovation and developing new methods and lessons, teachers are providing multiple points of entry and access for students. Giving students options in terms of engagement can help reduce stress related to being overwhelmed by digital platforms, less structured learning, and academic tasks.

Coming together. Continued remote learning is creating opportunities for teachers to move out of their comfort zones to try new learning methods and tools, many of which involve devices that students already use outside of class.

Care for the caregivers. Like medical health professionals, educators have been expected to provide the same level of service throughout the remote learning experience, in addition to taking care of their own families, so it’s critical they actively engage in self care to protect their own mental health. Continuing to meet and partner with peers can provide much needed support, particularly in just staying connected to others to discuss experiences, concerns, and approaches. Many teachers miss the classroom interaction with students and feel as though they are failing their students in the remote learning environment, which needs to be addressed. 

Lost in translation. A lot of communication is currently being done through email rather than face to face, which has the downside of messages being misinterpreted and/or misunderstood. Even well-intended group emails can sometimes make students feel isolated or that they’re failing to keep up with the class.

“Everything is not normal.” Educators who try to carry on as if the current remote learning environment is ordinary may be doing a disservice to their students. Not acknowledging that things are different and moving forward without adapting to new needs and teaching methods can cause problems. Being responsive to how education has shifted is necessary to properly support student mental health and success.

Ray Bendici is the Managing Editor of Tech & Learning and Tech & Learning University. He is an award-winning journalist/editor, with more than 20 years of experience, including a specific focus on education.