What the Pandemic Taught Us About Staying Connected

When schools closed for remote learning, some of the most important work teachers did had nothing…

By Hana Beach

When schools closed for remote learning, some of the most important work teachers did had nothing to do with academics. It was about building community—maintaining the strong school mission and culture and deep relationships that we know are crucial to student success. This work wasn’t easy, but you did it—and now you can carry those learnings forward. Our resources this week highlight how to build on the lessons of the pandemic to create classroom communities that are inclusive, connected, and equitable. Let’s get started!

What values inspired you during the toughest moments of virtual learning? How did you share them with your students? Keep core values central this year to build a culture of belonging. 

Why It Matters: When the shift to remote learning stripped away so much of the familiar in classrooms, teachers focused on what really matters to build community. Relationships, collaboration, and care for each other became priorities, as teachers created spaces for students to be their whole selves. Maintain this focus on values through:

  • Creating a classroom contract with students
  • Inviting students to journal about their core values
  • Taking time to share about your own life

Extra Credit: Creating a Classroom Contract

When schools needed help during the pandemic, community partners stepped up. Now, nurture those relationships to build a support network beyond the classroom. 

Why It Matters: Schools work best when they are embedded in the community, empowering students and community members alike. During the pandemic, community organizations supported students with study spaces, wifi access, therapy options, homework help, and more. Keep these relationships active by:

  • Seeking community perspectives through advisory panels
  • Making an asset map of your surrounding community
  • Partnering with local organizations for student projects

Extra Credit: Bolstering Education Outside the Classroom

Remote learning showed that it’s not only the classroom community that empowers students—but that students need to feel valued, seen, and connected to the school community at large as well. 

Why It Matters: For many high schools, prioritizing all-school community was a crucial part of successfully engaging students during the pandemic. School community helps students form the strong, trusting relationships with peers and adults that make kids want to come to school in the first place. To prioritize school community moving forward:

  • Pick a “partner class” in another grade
  • Facilitate cross-grade affinity groups based on student identities
  • Involve older students in visible leadership opportunities
  • Create mixed-grade advisories 

Extra Credit: Tips on Creating an Inclusive School and Why It Matters

Parents and caregivers are powerful partners in learning, and remote learning laid the groundwork to engage them in class in new ways. 

Why It Matters: When families are engaged in learning, students are more likely to thrive. Families are also the experts in how schools actually serve their students, and can drive necessary reforms and changes. Now that the pandemic has brought families to the table, expand those relationships by:

  • Doing regular check-ins, like newsletters, to keep families up-to-date
  • Inviting family members to visit class and share expertise
  • Considering home visits
  • Offering frequent opportunities for feedback

Extra Credit: Family Engagement is Key for Student Success During COVID-19 Recovery and Beyond

When we couldn’t gather in person, many classrooms took the opportunity to gather virtually with people across the country—and even the world—creating exciting opportunities for connection. 

Why It Matters: As teachers the pandemic forced teachers to get creative with technology, students got to connect with experts and peers they wouldn’t have during a normal year. Here at XQ, we tapped into this energy through projects like our XQ Yearbook and our XQ Arts and Activism challenges, initiatives designed to inspire and empower students within national communities. Consider how you can continue using technology to help your students:

  • Share their creative work with wide audiences
  • Zoom with experts in the content they’re studying
  • Connect with causes they’re passionate about

Extra Credit: Diversity Starts with Teachers: Creating a Community to Keep Educators of Color in the Classroom