Coauthored by John Mlynczak and Dr. Scott Edgar
So your school is closed and now you have to do all your work from home without your familiar routine or friends around. Now what?! This is your opportunity to create the educational environment to help you learn the best! Here are some strategies to be effective academically, socially, and emotionally:
1. Create A Working Environment For Success
Your home is normally your space for relaxing and entertainment, so you first need to create an environment where you can focus on your work. Set up a location that is free of distractions and also has a positive energy. School can sometimes feel stifling. You know how you learn best. Be responsible, but this is your opportunity to create what works best for you! Everything in your view should be organized, clean, and free of clutter. Look around your work space and make sure it feels good to you. Consider moving your desk away from facing walls and into a view that is more open. You are going to spend a lot of time in this space so organizing your work area for success is very important!
2. Prioritize Your Tasks In Order
We understand that you have assignments from every class all at once. Do not feel overwhelmed as you are not expected to complete everything right away or all at the same time. Look at due dates and level of importance of each task, list them in the order you should complete them, then just work in order on what you can accomplish in that moment. Estimate the amount of time you think each assignment should take. Most teachers are given guidelines for how much work to give students per day. Feel free to communicate openly with your teachers on what you are working on in what order on each day so you know you are focusing your time appropriately. Your teachers will respect this communication and your organization.
3. Remove Distractions
It is very easy to be distracted by new emails, discussions on projects, texts, social media, etc. When you start a task, put away the phone, turn off notifications, and close any distracting windows on your computer and allow yourself to focus on just that for an allotted timeframe. Use the time in between tasks to check in on email, assignments, and other communications. Communicate with those in your house when you are about to start a task and ask that they respect your time and work and not interrupt (ask respectfully!).
4. Set a Routine That Includes Breaks
Your work schedule should be centered around how you can be the most focused and productive. Some people work best first thing in the morning, others right after lunch. Know your best times and put your most challenging assignment then. Create a routine that include blocks of time where you will focus on your assignments, then allow yourself time to take breaks. This is a gift that we are often not given in formalized school. In your break time, walk away from your computer and let your brain and body refresh. Plan out your snacks and meals, move around and even do some short exercises, and consider using breaks to catch up on your social media- but don’t get trapped here! You should come back from your breaks ready to go.
5. Maintain Social Connections
Working from home can be isolating, so be sure to maintain your important social relationships in between tasks. In addition to messaging and communication apps, call and have face-to-face conversations with friends or groups of friends to maintain these relationships. Maintain your social web by identifying one or two people in each course who can be your check points and accountability people. Hold each other accountable for deadlines and be a resource for any questions.
6. Care For Your Emotional Health
Isolated online learning is a very different experience than being in school and will include additional challenges of using new technology, navigating self-directed learning projects, and having to create new routines and habits. This will be a big transition for you and that is ok. First and foremost, your emotional health and well-being is important. Reach out to your parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and friends for support throughout the process and do not ever be afraid to speak to someone about stress and anxiety. Regularly ask yourself how you’re doing.
About the Authors
John Mlynczak is Managing Director of Noteflight, a Hal Leonard company, Past-president of the Technology Institute of Music Educators, and a Google Level 2 Certified Educator. John is also an experienced online instructor and frequent national clinician on music technology and advocacy. Mr. Mlynczak received his Masters in Education Leadership and Masters in Music Performance from Louisiana State University, and his Bachelor of Music Education from Virginia Commonwealth University. He lives in Arlington, MA with his wife Nicole and their doggie Abita.
Dr. Scott Edgar is Associate Professor of Music, Music Education Chair, and Director of Bands at Lake Forest College. He received his Ph.D. in Music Education from the University of Michigan, his Masters in Education from the University of Dayton, and his Bachelor of Music Education from Bowling Green State University. Prior to his work in higher education he was band director at Carroll High School in Dayton, Ohio and has taught instrumental music in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois. He lives in Lake Villa with his wife Steph and their son Nathan.