The Social Dilemma of Return to F2F Schooling

Eager, anxious and afraid.

Learning is a social experience:

The more we collaborate with others, the more we learn.

And this is even more important in remote settings. We know from our research “Emotion & Cognition in the Age of AI” is that social emotional learning is in high demand, but low supply: 64% of teachers said time and lack of resources make it difficult to prioritize.

What we learned from 2020 is that the demand for social-emotional learning is stronger than ever:

Students in our YouGov survey indicated that what they miss most in remote learning is the social interaction that is critical to
building social-emotional skills.

This includes those unplanned “social collisions” that happen when people are together, notably:

• Break times with friends
• Energy in a physical space
• Working face to face with teacher

Adjustment will not be the same for all students

So, now that many students are returning to f2f school, what can teachers expect from students who have had limited social experiences beyond the digital for over a year?

And we know, adjustment will not be the same for all students.

As physical distancing requirements are modified and students physically return to their school buildings, educators will require protocols for identifying those at higher risk for adjustment difficulties. Grab the matrix

How can they best support the new social environment and expectations?

Here’s 5 ideas based on principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) I would give to my school staff as they ready for physical f2f for their work with each other and their students.

  1. Set realistic expectations

Imagine that you had an injury and couldn’t exercise for six months. Would anyone expect you to get back to peak performance the second the injury is healed?

Cut some slack.

  1. Practice making eye contact. During most in-person interactions people are likely wearing masks, so we can’t rely on smiles or other facial expressions to communicate how we feel
  1. Be real: see if you can find the humor in these awkward social encounters. A joke can go a long way in terms of fostering closeness with others.
  1. Speak up when uncomfortable. You might find yourself in situations in which other people might not be abiding by the same level of social distance as you.
  1. Give other people the benefit of the doubt. We’re all in this together: Nobody knows how to navigate this new world. So, before assuming that other people are acting weird because they don’t like you or that they are not following certain social distancing rules because they don’t care about you, take a minute to remind yourself that it’s quite likely that this might have nothing to do with you.

National Association of School Psychologists. (2020). Returning to School Following COVID-19 Related School Closures: The COVID-19 School Adjustment Risk Matrix (C-SARM) [handout]. Author.

Navigating the Social Awkwardness of Reopening | Psychology Today

Microsoft_YouGov_Learning_Forward.pdf (

I second (and third) that emotion:


Emotion check-ins are all the rage in this world between the glass and for good reasons. Emotional check-ins are designed to help you slow down and get in touch with your inner self.

They’re designed to help you get an accurate reading of how you feel and self-awareness is a foundational social-emotional skill that helps us recognize and understand how our emotions are triggered by internal and external factors and influence our thoughts and behaviours.

Check-in normalise feelings, inviting them into the discourse and helping us realise that emotions vary in their range and intensity and are transient. Remember: Emotion, literally means to ‘be in motion’


Here’s where it’s interesting right?

Sometimes we feel multiple emotions simultaneously

Leon F Seltzer Ph.D. asks in Psychology Today

” Have you ever felt happy and sad at the same time? Or experienced an emotion as bittersweet? Or had feelings so mixed that you were compelled to vacillate between two courses of action—or reaction? Or maybe torn between two (or more) emotions?”

Leon poses a fascinating thought around procrastination,

“In fact, what’s typically described as procrastination mostly relates to such mixed feelings or emotional ambivalence. How could you possibly act decisively, or even act at all, if you’re of two minds—or rather, feelings—about something?”

Photo by Klaus Nielsen on

So maybe in emotion check-ins we should be asking how are you FEELINGS (plural) not just how are you FEELING (singular)

Interested in your thoughts

Parents are more concerned about their children’s online safety during remote learning

The above headline ran in the NY POST recently and cited research commissioned by Lightspeed Systems, which offers online safety and analytics solutions and conducted by OnePoll, the survey found 84 percent of parents whose child uses a school-issued device for distance learning (approximately 1,000 respondents) have had to learn how to use it alongside their child.

Seemed like a goof time to share some resources for families:

Top tips for internet safety at home

Digital citizenship begins with you

How dangerous is the online world? myth vs. fact

Top tips for online safety PowerPoint presentation (for parents)

Stay sharp on internet safety at home


Are you ready for this?

Super excited to be presenting with Goldie Hawn from MINDUP!

We have pulled together a bunch of amazing ideas from teachers around the world for others to use to support well-being in these challenging and complex times.

Catch this session live and the others on-demand

A Collaboration with Microsoft Education.

Education Reimagined

The COVID-19 pandemic has generated a torrent of individual and small-group responses as to how education could be transformed. We have found a groundswell of interest in the question, “How best to take advantage of the new opportunities arising from the disruption?” What people desperately need are opportunities to team up and find pathways of action that can deepen learning for students and teachers and to engage in new ways of learning that result in better outcomes.

In the paper, the authors argue that the solutions lie before us.

Collectively, we have the opportunity to creatively manage the immediate issues and learn from this remote experience, while building a bridge to a reimagined education system.

the authors outline a strategy for moving from this crisis to a future-focused system.

Adapted from the full blog

Download the paper here

New PODCAST: Introducing Staff of 2030

insider series


Join host Matt Miller as he talks with me about new research from The Economist Intelligence Unit, which highlights the skills and training educators need to be successful in helping their students thrive.




concentrated diverse coworkers of different ages using laptop in office

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Infographic: The Staff of 2030

Full paper The Staff of 2030
Blog: Emotion and Cognition in the Age of AI: New research from Microsoft Education

and The Economist Intelligence Unit
Microsoft Educator Center and Microsoft Innovative Educator Program

Microsoft Education | Site | YouTube | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Instagram

Matt Miller | Site | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube 

Mark Sparvell | Site | LinkedIn | Twitter

What are your main challenges with remote teaching?

500 teachers responded to this question in a Global Educator Collective on FB.

Skype 2

1.Continued engagement/ attendance/ motivation was by far the most identified challenge. Many noting as time goes by a decrease in participation, completion and quality. Distraction by digital was flagged e.g. social media.

2.Submitting empty doc/ not submitting this was the next largest and was related also to incomplete or inadequate work being submitted.

3.Communicating with parents/ supporting parents to understand how and when to support this was reflected with parents appearing not to be supporting the students when required or ‘buying in’ to excused made by students for non-completion etc

4. Time taken in prep for teachers felt they were spend a large amount of time learning new tools, creating content and as a result were feeling burnt-out, tired and fatigued.

5. No assessment/ difficulty assessing/ grading  many tied this to motivation with students have ‘optional’ engagement, receiving ‘standard passing grades’. Other talked about difficulty tracking submissions across platforms, grading or providing feedback on digital content or simply knowing who was where, doing what and when. A number noted ‘cheating’ as a concern.

Kids with no device or access this remains a constant stress for teachers who worry about students and ‘doing a good job’ for all students.


Other comments/ challenges

I feel like I’m failing not providing the high quality learning I usually do +1 (losing momentum +1  +1) +1 +1+1

Early years must have support +1

Kids, teachers and parents fatigued by communications

It feels cold, I like collaborating with colleagues

No ability to provide consequences for non participation

Hands-on learning difficult to structure

Students with additional learning needs (ELL, IEP,  Early Years_


Easy Tech Tools for Parents supporting Remote Learning


The remarkable Mike from Microsoft has put together this awesome collection of easy-to-follow videos to best support all learners but particularly those experience difficulty with reading, writing, math or communication.

Top 3-5 Learning Tools scenarios for parents/guardians

Immersive Reader for reading, math
Dictation in office apps
Math tools in OneNote
Presenter Coach for communication practice

Top 3 tips to know  about Learning Tools

Free, built-in across Office and Windows, Teams
Immersive Reader everywhere, how it works, etc.

Top 3-5 ELL scenarios for parents/guardians 

Microsoft Translator for teacher communication – look at playlist, see videos
Translate in Word, PDF, Outlook, Teams messages
Immersive Reader for translation content

Top 3 Office tips for ELL

Translation in Word, Outlook already there
Immersive Reader in Word and OneNOte to translate and read aloud
PPT Live Captions and subtitle



Accessibility resources Microsoft Windows and Office

We know right now students, parents and teachers with permanent or temporary disabilities may be experiencing additional challenges as they access the valued content for remote learning.

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