It appears college students across the country are making this new normal seem easy during these unsettling times. Adjustments are being made. Distance learning is going well. Projects are continuing. And professors who may have been new to total online teaching are now seasoned. The semester rolls on.
This week, I learned from my neighbor who is a professor that as she was recently remote teaching a science related course to her forty-three students at a Florida college, the internet went out during the course. She is a dental hygiene professor and the computer has always played a minimal role in her teaching students…until now. Learning how to implement distance learning tools to teach a practical course and have the internet fail in doing so has required many extra hours of her time and some ingenuity she forgot she had. Despite figuring out these details, she is still unsure how her students will finish clinicals.
On one hand, it seems unimaginable how students and professors all over the world have figured out how to make “this thing” work. Quick adjustments, communication, and a bit of extra effort are just a few of the actions that have squashed panic in academia. Students have remained glued to their computers since they were asked to move home. They have rearranged schedules and set up classrooms at home. They have reached out to peers and found comfort in knowing they are all in this together. They have allowed themselves to feel sad, sentimental, and even angry, but there is one thing they have not done.
Folded. Given up. Or, quit.
For parents, despite how positive and confident we are trying to be, it can be said that we are perhaps the ones who have not adjusted as well. We are trying to make sense of the instant chaos and create some sense of order as the entire household finds a balance. In addition, we are not only experiencing a level of worry that is intense and extensive, but we still feel somewhat in charge of our students’ uncertainty during this pandemic. As parents, we are absorbing another layer of worry in this process.
Our college children are making things happen though. They are picking up the pieces and completing the puzzle. They are using and strengthening their executive function skills, particularly mental flexibility and emotional regulation, to persevere.
“Executive function is the ability to organize and manage our thoughts, actions, and emotions in order to initiate, sustain, and complete a task.” https://www.growinghandsonkids.com/executive-functioning-skills.html
And, our students are sparing us their worries because they recognize their own ability to succeed during this crisis.
When a student can dig deep and rely on themselves in times of change, stress and uncertainty, they feel successful. Each small success, whether it is an emotional win, an academic win, or a social win of some type, builds upon itself. They gain competence and confidence as they overcome, problem solve, and take risks.
For instance, the senior college student who had a “melt down” over not being to walk in graduation ceremonies in May is working to accept that global health and safety are paramount. This same student is relying on hope that there will be a future ceremony and has turned attention on finishing the semester strongly. The architecture student whose entire junior semester is spent in the architecture studio completing a semester project, is trusting that their professor will guide them to completion. And, the music major who was in the middle of a huge campus and community (graded) musical production has had to adjust to an alternate assignment.
One of the things I help students assess (as their personal stress coach) is how they adapt to stressful situations. How resilient are they during the many times in life they are faced with difficulty?
Resiliency is many things. Resiliency is the ability to overcome. It is a skill that can be both learned and practiced as tribulations occur. Think lemons and lemonade. Think elastic. Think silly putty. Resiliency is about how well you bounce back. Other qualities of being resilient: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/resilience
Ten Ways Parents Can Help Their College Student Build Resiliency: