How to motivate students returning to school after COVID

motivating students after covid

Are you a student, or is a family member a student, having trouble returning to school after COVID lockdown?  Read ways to overcome and mitigate problems in the article below from Sydney Career Coach, Tina Monk.

I think we can all agree that it’s been a very tough time for many people during this COVID-19 pandemic. Being stuck inside and forced to stop everything you do on a normal day has thrown the natural order of things off balance, like going to work or school, hanging out with friends and family, and going to see movies, watching a football game, or going shoe shopping!

Tips for teenagers returning to school after COVID

Suppose you think of high school students and all the scary, life-altering things they already deal with (like that first breakup). You can imagine the issues they already have staying engaged at school. School can be super tough to keep up with when you’re young; hour-long classes and daily homework sucks! So, it’s no surprise that being able to attend school virtually at home in your pj’s and sleeping in seemed like a big plus in all this.

Many students were diligent and stuck to their online learning though many reported that they did not get a lot out of it and were lagging behind as a result. They said they missed the social interaction as much as the face to face teaching.

Now, schools are reopening, and kids are having a hard time jumping back on that horse. It can be daunting and tiring for young people to go back and forth between what’s always been known as normal to this idea of the “new normal.”

Let’s talk about high school students and how they may or may not be coping with going back to in-person classes after months of being in lockdown. It’s going to feel hard for kids to have their environment change too quickly – it can be stressful! We’re all constantly checking the news, wondering when stuff will open again; when can I go to a movie with my friends, when do I get to go out to dinner? Then everything flip-flops back and forth from being completely shut down to “okay, you can go to dinner, but only if you’re fully vaxxed.!”

Most teenagers in high school are pretty well known for being a little less committed to homework and a little more committed to the next hit song or the next party or their crush Billy is going to. Now throw in a little bit of freedom and switch up how they have to learn; it can increase the chances of them finding it too hard and giving up. With all that being said, what are some ways you can get high school students to get their mojo back and start hunkering down on homework, projects, and being present in class?

Get back into a routine

A great way to start thinking about this is by looking at getting teenage students motivated to return to their regular everyday routines. Try starting by remembering what they used to do from sun up to sun down – did they used to eat breakfast, but since lockdown, they’ve skipped it because they’ve slept in until lunch? Or, maybe they brush off doing homework until the very end of the day, whereas before they were at school, they would use their free period in the morning to get a head start. Begin with a review of the day in the life of a high school student and see what they stopped doing. When you recognize it, you can slowly incorporate those old routines back into everyday life. It can start with something like going to bed earlier so that you don’t sleep in. Getting up on time will help with stress levels in the morning. Getting enough sleep will ensure productivity throughout the day.

Also, try not to push too hard in terms of activities that can deplete someone’s energy levels too quickly. For example, a student who used to walk home to get some exercise might want to take the bus at the beginning for an easier transition. The likelihood of being completely exhausted increases drastically if you do too much too soon. It will also make the transition seem much worse and lower productivity and engagement.

Keep up with social circles

The motivation levels of high school students can get pretty low when they realize they need to go back to school. When the news breaks, it’s almost certain they won’t be happy. And, you can imagine how hard they will try to avoid doing anything related to high school. Try using social rewards for reaching different goals.

For example, high school kids will react better to something they might find boring (like homework or studying) when there is some type of social interaction. So, suggest joining a group where kids can get together to work on the same homework. When they’re done, they can go out for pizza or play video games. If you are a parent, start making rules around when they should be doing homework and when they can have free time. This kind of structure can help bring back a sense of regular routines.

Be supportive!

Be their biggest cheerleader! Students are having a rough time going through this transition, so they need parents, other family members, friends, and classmates to help them out. Things like helping with homework or projects can be great motivation.

Friends and classmates can encourage each other too! Maybe a group chat or discussion board where students can post a question about a homework assignment. These are great ways for peers to connect, and it also acts as a way for them to socialize while getting work done. Social support is necessary for students heading back to school, and support from others who are going through the same thing is super helpful. Students can use this to share tips for staying motivated and what they do to keep their spirits high.

The takeaway

A transition period can be tough to get through for anyone, especially when it’s a dramatic change to your lifestyle (like a WORLDWIDE pandemic!). It’s a common reaction to change when you see people being hesitant, unmotivated, discouraged, or even upset. But hey, I promise the feeling will pass with time and support from people who are close to you.

High school students are a special group because they are already going through rough patches of life. Let’s not forget all the wild hormones and an unthinkable amount of other personal transitions. The jump back into in-person school can really shake the balance of what they got used to. But, with the right tools and a solid plan, there is light at the end of the tunnel for students to feel just as engaged as ever!

Need help returning to school?

Of course, all of this is made harder by the upcoming HSC for many students and having to wear masks when they sit for them.

If this seems easy enough, then great! But, if you need some help feel free to connect with us. We can provide great advice and coaching to people looking for a little kick start to their goals.

Complimentary coaching introduction

Take advantage of our complimentary coaching introduction to determine whether coaching is for you.  We provide coaching advice throughout Australia remotely via Skype and Zoom, over the telephone and in person at Neutral Bay on Sydney’s North Shore.


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Tina Monk, Sydney Career Coach

Sydney career coach and job advisor, Tina Monk’s education and professional development has focused mostly on how to understand people and bring out the best in them. Tina has been coaching for 20 years and continues to develop as a coach. Her approach is said to be caring with a bit of  ‘tough love’ thrown in!  Call or text Tina directly at 0413 000 010.

During these challenging times, we don’t need more fear, we need more hope and support.  If you are afraid of losing your job or have lost it, Tina can help you to future proof your career or help with your job search.  She can work with you remotely and is offering discounts on her fees during this time.