With no in-person academics, athletics or extracurriculars, getting excited for the school year might be difficult for students. So what does school spirit look like during a pandemic, and how can teachers and parents encourage kids to stay motivated?
“Each school is going to have to approach it differently,” says Lisa Durette, program director of the Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship at UNLV. Some schools, for example, require a uniform even when learning from home, so there’s a physical and visual element that “brings forth some unity,” Durette says.
Ultimately, encouraging and demonstrating school spirit comes down to the discretion and creativity of individual institutions. Things like spirit weeks can bring students together, as well as fundraisers and other remote activities and events. A movie-watching online event or an orchestral concert streamed live are two other ways schools can get students excited about their online education. “Get creative,” Durette says, to “tap into that sense of belongingness.”
Parents can also help by encouraging their kids to keep up their extracurriculars on their own by completing a reading list, practicing a sport at home or continuing a hobby, like playing an instrument or drawing, even though they can’t practice these skills the way they normally might with others.
Durette, who also teaches remotely, recommends that students video feeds stay on, to ensure that everyone is present and paying attention. “We have to be able to see one another,” she says. Other engaging activities include ice-breaking games at the beginning of a lesson, or a verbal check-in with students at the end of an online session, during which everyone can speak openly about COVID-19-related concerns.
Lastly, Durette says, it’s imperative that teachers and educators get support on how to teach virtually, so that all kids have an equitable education. “It’s a different method of teaching,” she reminds.