The power of community: Supporting physically distanced learners

Alzar School | 01.04.20

A time of transition …

In the semester sixteen Alzar School community, students, family members, and teachers alike find ourselves in a state of unprecedented transition. If you are like myself and my colleagues, you are pondering not only the state of the world, but also your internal state. You are asking yourself what matters most to you and how our global society might move forward with a different stride given the lessons learned from this COVID-19 pandemic.

As teachers, we are asking ourselves: what ought to be the goal of education and how do we best leverage our time with students towards an authentically useful end? Family members may be asking: how do I best support my student(s) in their pursuit of knowledge and wholly balanced well-being? Students are likely wondering: what is the purpose of schooling? How do I learn best and how can I contribute my passions to this world?

The present state of the COVID-19 pandemic opens up a context for highly applicable learning across disciplines. In this way, we are all learners now more than ever! Amid this unique time of transition, we offer a synthesis of advice for navigating the realm of physically distant (i.e. remote) learning in a way that feels productive, life-giving and relevant. By starting with small changes to our newly emerging routines, we can make a big difference for the remainder of this spring semester as well as for the rest of our lives to come. 


Self-care practices for physically distanced learners:

This team of students supported each other with compassion and celebration through challenging times in Valle Aviles.


Successful online learning strategies:

  • Take the course, and yourself, seriously
  • Leverage your resources (personal network of peers, family, teachers/mentors; plus articles, videos, books, telecommunication, etc.)
  • Stay organized (an online search for “tips to stay organized in college” turned up a number of articles and videos – find what works for you!)
  • Manage time wisely (create daily schedules and week-by-week study plans that avoid burnout)
  • Seek help when needed (email, office hours, community meetings, check-ins, etc.)
  • Hold yourself accountable (have an “accountability-buddy” who you check-in with regularly to monitor progress towards assignment completion and personal goals)
  • Create a regular study space that is comfortable and with minimal distractions (you might even try having a different space or corner of your room dedicated to each different subject to help compartmentalize and organize your thoughts and materials)
  • Seek to understand your learning style (and to discover when you are most productive)
  • Take study breaks (have you tried the pomodoro technique? Study for 20-30 minutes at a time, punctuated with a 3-5 minute brain break)
  • Reward yourself when you complete a challenging task
The Chilean Araucaria tree stands tall amid strong Patagonian winds.


In sum … 

The medical and university websites cited below encourage physically distanced learners to advocate for their needs by reaching out for support not only in terms of academics, but also in managing the emotional turmoil that is a natural response to this abrupt period of change. Although it is tempting to fall into social media as a coping mechanism, the National Council for Behavioral Health suggests that we “balance media consumption with other activities [we] enjoy, such as reading, cooking or listening to music”. 

Most importantly – remember to treat yourself, as you would other members of our Alzar School community, with kindness, compassion and patience. You deserve it. Rock on! 


  • About the author: Rachel Ackerman is a Science Teacher and a Blog Coordinator at Alzar School. Feel free to contact her at with comments, concerns, and interesting topics for future blog posts! 


** A NOTE from Mental Health First Aid USA**

If you or someone you care about feels overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression or anxiety, or like you want to harm yourself or others call 911.

You can also contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text MHFA to 741741 to talk to a Crisis Text Line counselor.