It's back to school time! Usually, this means buying new school supplies, fixing your sleep schedule, and finding that perfect first-day-of-school outfit. This year for a lot of us, it now means setting up our laptops, finding a quiet place in our house, and searching for pajamas that are just presentable enough for a zoom call. We'll still need some of the basics: pencils, notebooks, and paper. But there are a few more things that you might need going into this school year that will make online learning easier and more enjoyable.
A good workspace
One of the most important things to have as we enter this virtual school year is a clean, organized workspace. This is easier for some than others, but simply having a designated spot where you will work will help you focus more when you spend time there. Having a reliable place to go during zoom meetings is also important, especially if your teacher or professor requires your camera to be on. This doesn't have to be a boring space at all. If you have the room, make it fun! Decorate it with lights, pictures, motivational posters, anything you want! Having this space will hopefully normalize this new set up for you and prepare you for the year ahead.
Headphones or earbuds
Another essential item to have are headphones or earbuds. It is likely that you won't be the only one in your household with virtual meeting to attend or video lectures to watch. It is considerate to wear headphones or earbuds at these times. It also protects your privacy if you are at a club meeting or doing something you don't necessarily want the entire house to hear your conversations at. These can be useful if you want to listen to music while you work too!
A printer may be very useful while learning online. While you most likely don't have to turn in any work in person, it may help to print out readings or worksheets so you don't spend the entire day staring at a screen. It can also help to print out things so you can highlight or annotate certain lines. It is almost always easier to remember something if you're using paper instead of staring at a screen. I know for me, at least, having a reading on a screen can cause me to lose focus or tempt me to open other tabs. Having things printed out as much as possible can help you focus and remember the information better.
Although many of us are living at home for virtual learning and lose some independence that way, we've gained a lot of independence with school work itself. There will be no one in person telling us when things are due or asking for the work. A planner or a calendar or some sort can be very useful in this regard.You may want to figure out a system, a plan of what work to do when. It will also help you keep track of due dates and meeting times! This new year will take a new kind of discipline and responsibility from all of us. Planners are always great ways to organize yourself and reduce stress.
Coffee, or your choice of caffeine, will be vital as we transition from regular quarantine into the school year. For a lot of us, the last few months have been an opportunity to sleep more. Without having work, or school, or having anywhere to go...what else is there to do? Especially for students, most of us probably haven't woken up before 10:00am in months. Now I have class at 9:30am every week, so what now? I'm going to need plenty of coffee. Coffee can be nice to sip on while you're in your morning zoom meeting--it could be the thing that saves us all from falling asleep in class.
Depending on who you have as professors and teachers, some are requiring students to have "real" clothes on--as in not pajamas. This seems a bit useless to me since plenty of college students wear pajamas to in person classes anyway, but it isn't really worth a fight. If you're like me, you don't want to get all dressed up just to sit at home. Having a good few outfits that are comfortable, but presentable, is essential. Some great staples to have include leggings, sweat pants, joggers, sweat shirts, tank tops, and t-shirts, and hoodies.
Blue light glasses
Our screen time is increasing significantly. As we enter school, we will most likely be spending even more time in front of laptops and phones. This can be extremely harmful to our eyes and vision. It can also make it much harder to fall asleep. Even if you don't want to wear the glasses 24/7, it can help just to wear them a few hours before bed. These glasses will prevent your vision from worsening because of screens and will make it easier for you to fall asleep at night.
Spending all day locked away in your room, or wherever your workspace is, you can often lose track of time. When you're on campus walking around, you're reminded of the time and to eat as you pass restaurants and dining halls. When you're holed away in one space, not moving, just working, you can forget to eat. But to keep your energy up and to stay focused, you need to eat! Even if you don't have time to make a whole meal sometimes, it is great to have a stash of snacks in your work space so you can snack throughout the day. Choose some of your favorites! Granola bars are great and easy to eat, chips, pretzels, nuts. There are so many options. Stay hydrated and eat! Your brain needs fuel!
Finally, don't let yourself stay isolated just because you don't get to attend class in person. If you have friends at school already, stay in touch! It's so easy to do so with social media. Have study parties over zoom, facetime, continue reaching out. If you're entering a new school whether it be college, high school, or even middle school, don't be afraid to start making friends now! You don't have to wait until you're on campus. There are virtual meetings that are being held for clubs--show up! Introduce yourself in class, ask for people's social media or numbers to connect. Join groups for your class. Everyone is in need of a little more social interaction, and this semester we all need the extra support.
A fully online semester can be daunting. As every email we've gotten from our schools says, these are unprecedented times. No one is completely sure how this is going to work. Take a deep breath, prepare as best you can, and go into the semester with a good mindset. We're all in this together.