I hope you found fun and creative ways to enjoy your summer. This has been quite the start of the school year. I took the summer off to teach virtual summer school and think about the future of this blog. I am continuing to provide services virtually for my students. I am about to start week three of virtual speech and I’m not gonna lie, this is hard. This is a lot on my students and their families. I miss my kids. I miss my staff. As of today, my schools have been closed for 6 months. I’ve gotten creative in how I provide support, thanks to Boom cards and Nearpod and Edpuzzle.
I am so proud of how adaptable my students have been. I’ve been forgetting to extend that same pride to myself. I find myself drained, and all I’ve done is sit at a desk all day. The purpose of this post is for students who find themselves in any sort of virtual learning. I have some ideas for how to make virtual learning work for you.
- Create a dedicated workspace.
Find a space that is used exclusively for school. Maybe it’s a desk in your room maybe it’s the kitchen table, maybe it’s your couch. Keep all of your school supplies there–manipulatives, chargers, headphones, workbooks. Store those items nearby so you are always ready to work and you’ll always know where your school supplies are stocked.
- Stick to the schedule from your teacher or school.
Just like school, it’s important to be on time for your virtual class, just like it is to be at school on time. You can set alarms to wake up, just like you would if you were going to school. Eat a good breakfast and keep a water bottle nearby.
- Take breaks.
This one is important. My school district has mandatory breaks. During these breaks, step away from the screens. Read a book, take a walk, play with your siblings, adults, or pets. If you can avoid social media, do so. Don’t forget to move. Try some jumping jacks, a game of Simon Says, movement breaks from GoNoodle have a variety of movement breaks from higher cardio to yoga and calming breaks.
- Try your hardest.
We know it’s tempting to work at less than 100% when you’re at home. You might be more comfortable than you would be at home. Your teachers are trying their best and miss you dearly. We are working to give you the best education possible in a virtual setting. We know this is very hard, and new for all of us. We know our digital platforms can be glitchy, and may not always work. We’ll understand. These are things beyond our control.
- Finish each day when it’s over.
There are points in every day when we feel “done.” It’s important to recognize those moments and either take a break then, or push through until the end of your session. When the school day is over, walk away from your screens. Give yourself a break before starting homework, if you have any. Talk to your family and friends about your day and theirs. Write letters, make phone calls, walk your pet, stretch from sitting for so long. School will start again tomorrow, it will be a new day, and you’ll begin again. We’ll all get through this together.
I don’t know about you all, but I’ve found I’m spending entirely too much times in front of screens. In an effort to decrease this, I will be posting once a month until the end of the year. After much careful consideration, I’ve realized this blog is no longer as fulfilling to me as it has been over the last few years. Speech has been stressful, to say the least, and never knowing if/when I’m returning to buildings is getting to be too much. I love this blog and all it stands for, but the season of my writing here is winding down. I look forward to continuing to post in the coming months.
Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. We have the holidays approaching and I know that I and many others are looking to make new memories with friends, family, and friends who have become family. This is the time of year I force myself to truly stop and be more present with myself and those whom I love because I know time is not promised to any of us. Sadly, neither are memories, and very few of us consider this. Cognition and memory are a part of my field as a speech-language pathologist, and one of my favorite areas to work in. Usually, I am working with children who need help with executive functioning, but I’ve occasionally worked on memory recall, word retrieval, and providing compensatory strategies for those with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease. I thought I’d share some of my strategies with my readers going into this holiday season, so we can help make memories and help others hold onto memories old and new.
- Use music.
Have you ever heard a song and been immediately transported back in time, to a person or place or memory? Studies show that music is strongly correlated with memories and can help people remember specific events or people. I know for a fact that certain songs take me back to my childhood with my family singing, back to summer camp when the “song of the summer” was played on repeat in camp bunks. Hearing a song can evoke muscle memory as well–I still know choreography from 15 years ago the second I hear old recital tunes. Fill your days with music and attach moments to them. Those memories will surprise you at any and every turn.
- Take pictures.
We now live in an age of “pics or it didn’t happen.” While I know that’s not true, and some of my favorite memories have not been documented, pictures can improve recall, word retrieval, long and short term memory. Take pictures of family members and write their names on the bottom or back of the photo. Take pictures of objects for routines–real images or best, but digital images can be beneficial too. This can help someone know what is expected of them during a routine event (e.g. getting ready for the day, how to complete a daily task, etc.) or simply serve as a visual reminder of something on someone’s to-do list.
- Write it down.
If I don’t write down what needs to happen, it won’t get done. Digital reminders ust don’t work for me. When you write down what you need to do on paper, utilizing the motor function of writing, you’re also evoking muscle memory, forming a stronger cognitive connection more easily accessed than typing something into a notes app on a digital device. I personally color-code my to-do list by work, personal, and errands/chores. I did this in grad school with my notes and it helped me remember exactly what I needed to do. The power of visual reinfocement tied to motoric memory is strong!
- Record conversations.
Recording conversations is a great way to remind someone of what a conversation sounds like with their dear ones. There’s the recognition of their voice and the topic of conversation, which can bring someone right back to the scene of the event that was recorded. It also reinforces connection to the individuals in the recordings, and gives people something factual to tie to the people in the recordings, like that your best friend loves your dry sarcasm and ability to make them laugh, that your family member can’t stand golf but could watch baseball for hours on end. Remembering these little things can trigger other memories, like the time you took your friend’s sarcasm seriously and it resulted in a joke, or sharing sporting events with your family. It can also provide topics of conversation for the future.
- Take advantage of technology.
Technology is a tool. Use it to hold the pictures you’re trying to remember–create albums for topics or people you want to remember. Set alarms to remember to take medicine, run errands, or do things you enjoy. Use video chat to connect the voices from the recorded conversations to their owners. Type up stories or jokes you want other people to remember about you. Type up a list of things you like to do for fun or to de-stress so that you can remember strategies to bring joy back when you get stuck in frustration.
Alzheimer’s is something that hits close to home with me. If you are so inclined, please donate to the Alzheimer’s Association to help with research to find better treatment options. There are walks you can be a part of, and other ways to support research for this disease. My challenge to my readers this week is to form new memories and be mindful of the ones you’ve already formed. Share your own memory strategies in comments.
Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP