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

https://aka.ms/LearningForwardYougovSurvey

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 (azureedge.net)

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