We asked a group of productive and brilliant high school students to share some insights on how they are surviving the transition to a virtual classroom. The following are their recommendations on the top 5 ways to survive virtual classrooms.
1. MAXIMIZE PRODUCTIVITY IN YOUR VIRTUAL CLASSROOMS
My best advice for high school students to maximize productivity in virtual classrooms is to treat virtual schools like physical schools. This, of course, is easier said than done. While I try to treat every weekday as if I am actually going to school – wake up early, get ready, and find a space (that isn’t my bed) to do my work – it’s very easy to snooze my alarm and procrastinate my assignments. But, I find that if I’m in my pajamas or sitting in my bed, I am more likely to check my phone, get distracted, and end up not doing my work. By getting ready each morning and finding a place to focus, I find that I am more motivated to get my work done and meaningfully participate in my Zoom classes. Doing work for each subject during the time you would have had the class can be helpful too (like doing math homework when you would have had math class). This way, you are able to find time to do your work for each subject instead of jumping between assignments. After this has become routine, you will be able to get your work done early and have “after-school” time to call friends, play some games, or do whatever makes you happy.
2. CREATE A SCHEDULE FOR YOURSELF
For many students, the virtual school has become a significant change in their daily routines and like myself, it can become challenging at times to stay focused and motivated. However, there are ways to combat the lack of productivity we may face at times since we are not in a physical environment like we used to be. Create a schedule for yourself, whether that be through a calendar app on your phone or in a notebook, having a schedule gives you awareness on when assignment due dates are coming up and how you should be proactive. For example, I like to predict what my workload is going to be like for the upcoming weeks on Sundays so that I can begin writing down a schedule that can be used throughout the week, and can be easily changed if necessary. Also, dress for success! It’s so important now to actually get up and get ready as if you’re actually going to school. The more time you spend treating online schools like “normal” school, then the more productive and efficient you will be when completing your work. The more you participate in your classes and continue to keep that same work motivation you had during physical school, then the better you will perform in an online school.
3. UTILIZE “STUDY BREAK FOCUS TIME TRACKER” APP
During this unprecedented time of crisis, my school system has moved to online learning. Although the workload has not been too overwhelming, a new academic schedule and a completely different way of learning have been challenging to adjust to. I do admit that my difficulty with adjusting to the new system stems from my poor procrastination and time management habits. They have definitely slowed down my progress and put a damper on my learning. Despite some of my trouble adjusting to a new form of education, I have found ways to improve my experience and make the best out of a disappointing situation. My #1 distraction when it comes to schoolwork is by far my phone, and I downloaded an app called “Study Break Focus Time Tracker” to fix this.
Every time I sit down to do my work, I turn on this app, which tells me to put my phone down by sending a notification every time I pick it up. Additionally, you can set ten minute break periods during your homework sessions to give your mind a short rest. This app has been an incredible solution to my procrastination by motivating me to ignore outside distractions and has shortened the amount of time I spend on my schoolwork greatly; I highly recommend it to any student who gets distracted easily as I do. When it comes to issues with time management, I have found that I can be more productive and manage my time more wisely by making a weekly school schedule. My school does recommend how we should spread out our work for the week, but I find that writing down my academic goals for each day has been very helpful. This way, I wake up every morning with tasks to accomplish and feel good about myself when I get them done. Another thing that is very important during this time is to not let schoolwork distract from keeping up your mental health. At the beginning of all of this, I definitely was down in the dumps and had trouble getting out of bed in the morning. However, I have worked to keep a sense of normalcy in my life by listening to music, going on drives, walking my dogs, playing games on Zoom with my friends, and talking to them nightly. Although this does not directly involve school, doing things to prioritize my mental health and put myself in a good state of mind has been very beneficial when it comes to being motivated to do well in school and work hard. I hope these tips help make the lives of other high schoolers easier during this crazy, anxiety-ridden quarantine; we will get through this together!
4. BE PROACTIVE AND CREATIVE WITH YOUR TIME
Be proactive with time, broadening horizons, take up hobbies, exercise, connect with friends. Although I would prefer being back in my beloved school community When I entered high school, my time became consumed by school and I slowly strayed away from hobbies I once held dear to my heart. I remember once being completely enamored with writing, painting, and drawing, yet before quarantine, I could not recall the last time I touched a paintbrush. The abundance of free time I now have has inspired me to be creative.
5. BE SELF ACCOUNTABLE AND DO NOT PROCRASTINATE
Though I am in my seventh year of homeschooling, I remember the transition from a structured environment to a self-accountability system being especially challenging. I’m not going to sugar coat it, of course, it’s going to be hard and stressful at times, especially as you are first starting out. Not having a teacher or authority figure to report to every day puts all of the responsibility on your shoulders. Yes, it can be overwhelming, but remember, you get out what you put in. Every time you get an assignment, write it down on a piece of paper. It helps to see all the work you need to complete in one place. Sure, it can be overwhelming when you have assignments due for every class and the list feels twelve miles long. There are going to be thoughts going through your head filled with excuses you can use, but even though this is high school, everything you do matters. I usually set goals and give myself rewards. For example, complete X, Y, and Z assignments and I get a portion of my favorite snack food or I get a 20-minute break to decompress. The feeling of “I’m never going to get this done” can be all-consuming and what helps me combat that are simple five or ten-minute meditations on YouTube. It’s super easy to search one up. My favorite ones are by Marianne Williamson and Carolyn Myss. Meditation really clears your head and recharges your battery. Uncompleted or late assignments might happen, but don’t beat yourself up over them! It is vital to have self-respect and know your limits otherwise crashing and burning could happen. Respect yourself and your limits and boundaries, if one day your brain isn’t working give yourself the day off and re-plan to do the work another day.
The biggest piece of advice I could give my younger self and really anyone is don’t procrastinate! It will just end up snowballing and you will regret it. Spread out your work and plan the days when you are going to do certain assignments. Create a schedule and hang it up somewhere visible in your room. Also, know yourself and find what works for you. I personally like accountability buddies. You can Facetime a friend and do work while on the phone with them so you don’t drift off and get distracted. Also, don’t be afraid to form virtual study groups! Everyone is in the same boat and feeling the same fears. People might say don’t do work in your bed, but if that’s where you feel productive, go ahead! Work where you feel best, whether that be at a desk or cozied up in your bed.
The thing to remember is that this isn’t forever, it’s temporary. Push through and enjoy your time at home. Cherish and relish the process. Even if it’s not ideal, if you drag your toes in the sand and have a negative view of the current situation, every day will be long and treacherous. Having an open mind and a positive outlook will make all the difference. After all, when schools resume everyone is going to want a virtual school back. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Just learn what works for you, do that, apply yourself, and respect yourself, your boundaries, and limits.
We hope these tips are useful in helping you stay engaged in your virtual classrooms, and how you manage your time as a student during the current global crisis.
Stay safe, stay well, and spread love always
Global Connections for Women Foundation (GC4W)