In this week’s Mentor Minute, we’re going to give you a few tips on how to communicate effectively with your students in these days of social distancing.

“You’ve got mail.”

Chances are good that your student couldn’t tell you what movie that line is from, and many of them probably couldn’t tell you the last time they got mail either…until now.

Just think for a moment how excited you were as a kid when you got mail. Not junk mail, but a real letter or card from a friend or family member. I can still remember writing letters back and forth with my girlfriend when we were going to college in different states. And, it made my day when I went to the campus post office and found a letter waiting from her in my mailbox.

Written communication is back! Now, instead of the weekly face-to-face conversations we’re so used to having with our students, we are being asked to communicate through email and letters. For some of us, this is okay. Written communication is something that comes naturally to us. Or it’s already part of our regular everyday routine.

But, this isn’t true for all of us. The idea of sitting down and writing something to our students is a little out of our comfort zones. What do I write? How do I make “small talk”? What kinds of questions should I ask? These are great questions that many of us are asking!

Here are a few tips to help you transition from face-to-face communication to written communication:

  1. Ask good, open-ended questions. When we communicate with our students, we want to make it easy for them to communicate back. And, that’s what asking good questions does. For example, asking them if they miss school is more of a closed question (the answer is yes or no). But, you could ask them something like, what do you miss about not being able to go to school right now?
  2. Share a little about yourself. Clearly, these times we’re living in aren’t just impacting students and schools. All of our daily routines have been impacted in big and small ways. And, we’re all human. Share a little bit about how your life has changed and how you have been working through it. Just make sure to share it appropriately. Writing your students is not a time for you to vent or make light of the decisions that are being made to keep us all at home and healthy.
  3. Be creative. Already we have seen some mentors and students sharing pictures of pets or artwork that they have done. If you use email to communicate with your student through the school, you can share pictures or appropriate memes. You might also think about sending a funny card in the mail or writing them a note asking them what their favorite candy or snack is (and then sending them a small care package later on with some of their favorites).

These are no doubt challenging times for all of us! Thank you for continuing to invest in students’ lives as we live through these days together!

– Jason Matthews, BTO Mentor & Pastor