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Learning Through COVID-19

By Pat Brothwell - April 10, 2020

There’s no way around it, COVID-19 has made the business of educating students more challenging. As with any hurdle however, there are lessons to be learned and insights to be mined.   

In these unprecedented times, we also have the unprecedented opportunity to engage students in meaningful conversations about the unpredictability of the world, how crucial it is to adapt and be flexible, workplace literacy, and the realities of the oft volatile job market. Your routine may have flown out the window, but the real-life learning opportunities haven't. 

Here are some tips from us on how to leverage what’s happening to create meaningful learning for your students. You can think of this as the VirtualJobShadow.com unofficial “Creating Lemonade from Lemons” tutorial. 

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Emphasize Soft Skills- Soft skills are important for both work and life. Last year’s LinkedIn Global Talent Trends report, a study based on interactions with thousands of hiring professionals, found that 91% of companies prioritize this skill set. Soft skills may not be mandated in many curricula (yet), but they will help students get ahead in life. What's more is that soft skills are going to be what help many people navigate this crisis, with all these real-life soft skill lessons revolving around us. Some examples of soft skill conversation starters include:

  • Adaptability- How have you adapted in order to make virtual learning a reality? In what ways have various working professionals had to adjust their day to day? What skills from a lost job can you use to jump start an entirely new career?
  • Empathy- Talk about why putting yourself in others' shoes is more important now than ever, but also about how having empathy is beneficial in general. Good leaders are empathetic. Good managers are empathetic. Good problem solvers are empathetic.
  • Creativity- How are various professionals working in different occupations being creative in terms of how they do their jobs? What are some creative, but productive ways students can utilize their newfound free time? 

Lean Into Current Events- Career issues have never been part of the cultural zeitgeist in such an integral way.

  • This is an organic time to incorporate workplace literacy into the classroom. Terms like furlough, laid-off, gig-economy, etc. are dominating our headlines. These are terms many members of the general public aren't familiar with, let alone students. Now is an ideal time to close this particular literacy gap.
  • Don't shy away from the headlines regarding job loss. Have students talk through how they would handle losing a job, especially as this may be something hitting close to home. It's a great opportunity for social-emotional learning and again, not only very relevant now, but an under discussed evergreen topic even before this pandemic since statistically one in ten workers lose their job every year.
  • Talk about personal finances. Only 28 states have financial literacy standards. Likewise, 40% of Americans don't have the savings to cover an emergency over $400.00. Again, we're seeing the fallout of that in real time. Be sensitive, but this is a prime time to engage students in the realities of money. 

Hit COVID-19 Head On- COVID-19 is the elephant in the room. There’s no reason to tiptoe around it. For those of you already using the VirtualJobShadow.com platform, we’ve launched a FlexLesson entitled “Working Through COVID-19.” Edutopia also has this great collection of resources to address COVID-19 directly, broken down by discipline.

Take Advantage of Individual Connections- We’ve heard from multiple customers who told us that a silver lining in this switch to remote learning is being able to engage with students individually whom they’ve had trouble connecting with prior. They weren’t sure why. It could be that some students feel more comfortable when the spotlight of the classroom is off them. Maybe in the classroom they felt more comfortable letting others ask questions. One teacher suggested that without the audience, maybe students simply dropped their “too cool for school” attitude. Either way, this is an opportunity to nurture and grow this engagement.

Making the Best of It

In terms of careers, think about the worst job you’ve ever had. It could be your first job serving ice cream to bratty kids during summer breaks, the temp position you took between jobs, or that personal assistant nightmare you endured just after graduation. You probably learned something at that job. We all learn things from our setbacks. We’re not in an ideal situation right now, but we are in the midst of an incredible learning opportunity. 

Send Us Your Tips

We also want to take some time in this blog to thank all the educators out there. We have nothing but awe and gratitude for the way you’ve been handling everything thrown your way and hope that this serves as just another bit of support for the fantastic job you’ve already been doing. These are just a few ideas. We’d love to hear any additional ideas or insights you have in terms of mining learning opportunities during this time. Send us an email and let us know. 

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