Posted on: April 30, 2020
These are strange times, but staying at home doesn’t mean becoming a recluse. Contact your friends and get creative!
Juniors, here’s a bit of advice as you find yourself finishing out the academic year online. Remote connections are the way to go these days, but distance learning and social distancing shouldn’t get you to the point where you become distant to your friends. Stay close to your friends, especially in times of stress and trouble.
You might start by asking yourself if you are optimizing your online class experience. I have asked this of several of my students: “When in Zoom class, can you see the whole class—all of your classmates?” Some students say yes, but others tell me that they are limited to the speaker—their teacher. Not sharing your online class experience with your classmates just adds to the artificial feeling of this experience. I would encourage all of you to try to expand your Zoom experiences so that the entire class is present.
Keep in touch with your peers through these academic gatherings; go beyond the “classroom” and connect with your friends after class. Are you typically the one who asks a question during the class? If that’s you, then be you. Be that person. Contact a few students who are taking the same classes as you, and ask them the same things you would ask if you were leaving the classroom together and headed for the lunchroom. “What did they think? Did they understand that part about XYZ?” Offering your own comments and hearing theirs will enrich the experience and help keep you connected. You might even have more time then usual to explore those kinds of questions. You can be you, and be more you.
Juniors face a particular dilemma. Over the last several weeks, many juniors have asked colleges one question over and over: How will I participate in extracurricular activities when school is closed? What will you think when you see my application? I will start with the second question. Colleges will not fault you for not playing a spring sport or singing in the spring theatre production, because they will know that school was closed and extracurricular activities were canceled. Colleges and universities are already preparing for an application year that is different from any they have ever faced before.
Now back to the first question. How can you participate in activities when you are home alone? Corianne Dealty, an Associate Dean of Admissions at Colgate University, offers this advice: “Think of your own strengths. Think of how you can help, but also take time for yourself.”
This time that you now have for yourself can be a creative experiment. The question to ask is: What am I doing with my time? Relying on the old habits is an impossibility: the dance studio is closed, school clubs can’t meet, playing fields are empty, and any kind of travel is a no go.
Cognitive adaptability is the ability to change your way of doing something when you receive feedback from the environment. When the outside world says quarantine, the best way forward is to find new avenues for staying active and making a positive impact. The new spaces, places, and avenues of your life will, for a time, be remote and virtual, but they can still be dynamic and loads of fun. You can use some of that time to help people too!
Here are some suggestions for getting creative and making connections:
“Gather” (by Zoom) with your school club, whether that’s robotics, UNICEF, Girl UP, or anything else. Talk with your clubmates about your club’s social media presence. Do you have a way to share information and work on projects together? Does the robotics club even have an Instagram account? Meet virtually once a week to review projects, make a plan for presentations within the group, and post your projects. If you work within a community service organization, think about how you can generate support for the people you serve. Then take a broader look. Can you contact your local community and share updates in support of a wider global need? Think of supportive themes, such as spring nature photographs, and have each member post a photo. See if you can develop a lively feed that brings attention to your group. You can tap into your creative juices and find new ways to advance the work of the groups to which you belong.
How about hosting an art gathering? You can coordinate and take an online drawing class—organizing a group of your friends to take the same virtual class. Alternatively, one person can host a still-life session with their camera. A single image is presented to all, and everyone then draws for 20 – 30 minutes before virtually meeting to discuss each drawing in turn. It is a great way to see the same still life from a number of perspectives, to see how reality is interpreted differently by different people. You will also learn more about how your friends see the world!
Want something a little more professional? Many art museums have virtual tours, so your class or club members could go independently on virtual field trips and then gather for class online to discuss a particular outing.
If you have a particular skill and know-how in some area, you could record a 15-20-minute instructional video and upload it for others to learn. It’s a great way to develop your instructional skills in your spare time.
The time is right for good ideas. Students are making masks and finding creative ways to address the hand sanitizer shortage. Do you know how to make soap, and can you sell it to raise money for under resourced neighborhoods? Are you a great organizer who could coordinate a group of people who are making masks for hospitals and nursing homes? What is your strength and how can you use it in a new way?
Exercising and keeping active is a great way to stay engaged and healthy—both physically and mentally.
What virtual activities could bring people together? Yoga class with friends? A plank-a-thon for charity?
KEEP CALM AND TUTOR ON
If you are a peer tutor, have you reached out to your students? Can you organize a weekly meeting? Maybe you want to invite another tutor and student and make it a group tutorial.
Create a Zoom group and work on your science interest/music skill/any subject area/drawing/painting/collage projects, just using what you have around the house for materials. You can make it up as you go along. Sing to each other!
These are just a few suggestions. Once you get started, you’ll think of many more—ones that will suit your interests and lifestyle. Use your intuition and initiative. The goal is to enrich your experience by “being you” and “being more you.”