Unmasking the Social-Emotional Cost of Going Online Overnight?

Special / April 30, 2020

 – Errol St.Clair Smith –

We thought we were prepared – a couple of containers of wipes, a box of protective masks, a Zoom account, experience with Flipped Learning, and extra toilet paper. But what we now know is that even the most forward-looking educators, schools, and school systems could not have prepared for COVID-19. The depth of the preparation gap is unmasked daily as the social-emotional costs of making a rapid transition to online learning is felt by all of us. How large is the social-emotional tax we’re collectively paying and how can we reduce it?  How are teachers, parents, students, and administrators dealing with the unexpected frustrations, exhaustion, anxiety, and uncertainty of the new abnormal?

In this issue, we reached out to the broader education community for answers and we present their stories and insights in both audio and text transcripts. Below are five highlights from this issue:

Before helping others

Educators have courageously leaned into online learning to ensure learning continues for their students. But even the most experienced and prepared are reporting that shifting to online learning overnight is exhausting. Jon Bergmann was quick to share this point and hundreds of educators agreed.  In a panel discussion, Jon Harper, Mandy Froehlich, Dr. Kristen Neff, and Alana Stanton talk about why it’s more important now to elevate our commitment to self-care, starting with great self-compassion.

Teaching During a Pandemic Is Fragile: Self-Care Is Good, Self-Compassion Is Better

No Maslow, no Bloom’s

COVD-19 has disrupted our routines and our lives in ways big and small. Some students and parents may be overcome with excessive worry, stress, a lot of fear, frustration, and sadness as their basic needs are threatened. Dr. Rosa Isiah acknowledges that what’s going on at home that we can’t see often impact the parts of remote teaching that we can see. Rosa invites Vanessa Clark, a licensed clinical social worker, to offer some guidance on how we can communicate with students and parents through the roller coaster of emotions that we are all feeling.

10 Ways to Help Students Cope With How COVID-19 Is Disrupting School Life

Choice and grace

Carl hooker is en education technologist, who acknowledges that online learning is not new. What is new is attempting to go from zero to sixty with remote teaching and learning overnight. Carl talks with another seasoned blended learning specialist, Michele Eaton, who is the director of virtual and blended learning for her school district in Wayne Township in Indianapolis. Michele and Carl discuss why grace and choice are the top two skills required to navigate teaching during the pandemic

Why the Two Most Important Online Teaching Skills Today Are Grace and Choice

Staying upbeat and energized

Tom Whitby is the host of the longest-running education chat on Twitter — EdChat. Each week educators from around the world convene to discuss a topic they collectively chose. For the last several weeks, managing the fallout of the COVID-19-driven rapid transition to online learning has been the popular topic. In this issue, we share a conversation with three of the regulars on the chat as they muse about what educators are doing to stay upbeat and energized as they teach while quarantined at home.

Teaching From Home: How Are You Keeping Your Spirits Up?


What kind of support do teachers need and want from school administrators during this unplanned experiment in online learning? Read the transcript or listen to the audio podcast of this interview as four educators compare notes and run down what helps and what hinders educators doing their best to teach remotely.

What Teachers Need From Administrators While Shifting to Remote Learning

Awesome and awful

Dr. Thomas Mennella is a regular columnist who looks at the wildly contradictory feelings many educators are experiencing as they soldier on with distance learning. As Thomas notes, “One of the most common refrains I hear lately is, ‘We are in strange times.’ Indeed. These times are made stranger by these constant contradictions that we are experiencing every day. It’s weird, but it’s kinda cool, too.” Thomas shares how he has made peace with the awesome possibilities and the awful demands of teaching remotely.

Why Is Online Teaching and Learning So Awesome and So Awful?

Eyeopening, but…

The interviews and articles in the issue are eyeopening, but they represent a snapshot of the moment.  As we publish the April issue, the full social-emotional toll of COVID-19 is still largely hidden. Even as some businesses and schools around the world make tepid attempts at reopening, the future is still unclear. The most informed experts believe that we need to be prepared for a marathon, not a sprint. What will happen when teachers are called back to school? What happens if parents of elementary kids are called back to work while schools are still doing remote learning? What if parents pushback on distance learning? What happens if the unemployment checks and rent relief run out before the economy comes roaring back? Most importantly, what happens if the fall brings a second, more severe wave of COVID-19?

Unbridled optimism

In the midst of chaos and uncertainty, there are many educators who are feeling excited and optimistic about the future of education after COVID-19 is history. Will online learning gain broader acceptance?  Will Flipped Learning see a renaissance of interest? Will passive learning, and rote memorization finally get the boot? Will micro-schools accelerate? Will we see fewer silos of practice and more global collaboration? The short term may be uncertain, but to many, the future looks brighter than ever before.


Errol St.Clair Smith
I am the Director of Global Development at the Flipped Learning Global Initiative. I joined the education community in 2005, working closely with national education organizations on community outreach and professional development. Over the last decade, I’ve led the development of community platforms for The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE); the Association of Curriculum Developers (ASCD); the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), the International Reading Association (IRA), the National Associations for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the National Association of School Nurses (NASN), the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the National Parent Teachers Association (NPTA), and the Association of School Business Officials (ASBO). I'm honored to have received four Emmy nominations and an Emmy Award for public affairs programming. In 2017 I co-authored Flipped Learning 3.0 with Jon Bergmann. The book was updated based on the AALAS Global Elements of Effective Flipped Learning in 2019.

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