Shh, be quiet! I’m trying to learn! Strategies for graduate students staying focused during remote learning
SLP Graduate Student and CFY Stories
SLP Graduate Student and CFY Stories
Shh, be quiet! I'm trying to learn! Strategies for graduate students staying focused during remote learning

Welcome to episode five of The Missing Link for SLPs, “Shhhh, Be Quiet, I’m Trying To Learn”, or five top strategies for staying focused during remote learning.

As a college professor, I have really seen my students struggle with learning how to shift out of their apartments, their dorm rooms, the grad labs – all of those places – and shift their learning to home due to COVID-19. And it’s been a struggle for all of us. So in this episode, I want to talk about ways to maximize your remote learning space and your remote learning, journeys and challenges and struggles.

So, quick story. When I sit to study, my husband and my daughter know that I need quiet.  Everything is turned off in the background. When my daughter studies, she’s turning 18 this Friday, when she studies she can have a movie playing on her laptop, something on in the background, music, or she can be chatting with a friend via messaging too – as she learns. So she and I are so totally different when it comes to the environments that we need when we go to study.

So that’s what I want to talk about today, is finding the best, most effective environment that you can create with this, with the Coronavirus going on, us being in safe shelters, and so much of our interactions being moved from person to person to virtual reality. Some of you are alone. Some of you are struggling every day. Others have moved home and are in houses filled with people in new stresses all over the world have been dumped upside down. And that’s what I want to talk about with everybody today. Some ways to move forward with this.

—> Download this episode’s “study guide” and show notes <—

Strategy 1: Managing Your Environment

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert?

One of the things that I have learned on this journey myself, is it’s been helpful for me to understand that I am at heart an introvert. I was so surprised when I talked to a colleague of mine. In the hospital setting, she’s like, “Oh, I just can’t wait to get back at work, I need to be feeling like I’m producing something.” It’s her rejuvenation.  Her re-energizing is very different from mine. If you can put me in front of a computer where I get to sit and create, I am happy. So being an introvert means I’m very happy at home. For those of you who are extroverts, you guys prefer to be out. So understand that everything I’m talking about today really, truly depends on the framework that you are working from. Neither one’s right or wrong. They’re just very different people, very different frameworks and ways of thinking of things. So as we go through this, look at it with the view of whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert.

Are you Independent or With Others?

If you live alone, it’s going to be easier for you to follow these five strategies for learning remotely, because you’re going to be able to move around inside where you’re living on your own schedule, with your own things. But you’re going to have different battles, you’re going to have more loneliness issues, and just a different set of challenges. 

Be sure that you’re taking the time to prepare yourself so when your classes are starting you are ready to go. Make sure that your computer’s charged up, make sure that you have your coffee or water beside you and you’re ready to go. If you’re going to take notes, make sure you’re got things to take notes. Check your email or latest message board, or you might need your phone to connect with classmates, to have the latest and greatest information (maybe the Zoom meeting is suddenly changed).  Go turn on, plug in, be sure you plug in so you don’t have to drop or run for a cord half-way through.

If you have any mental health, wellness, growing edges, make sure that you are meeting your minimum mark – we can talk more about that later. Follow up when something happens and then identify your biggest challenges if it’s a mental wellness issue, if it’s a connectivity issue, if it’s a technology challenge issue, identify your big challenges and or your not so big challenges and then start problem solving those one each day.

If you live with others, you’re going to have to be a little more creative. With your remote learning, you’re going to want to definitely establish boundaries and really communicate clearly. When are your classes scheduled? Are they specific times when you need to show up and have interactive lecture times, or are they more the videos that you need to watch and follow up on? When are going to be your study times, and your project management times?

Be very clear with others what you need to do, what they need to do, and then problem solve for things that might happen. Say you’re living with your boyfriend, for example, and both of you are working from home and he needs the kitchen. You can be in the bedroom. I’m taking this from a real example. You can be in the bedroom for part of it, but you probably don’t want to be in there for all of it. It’s just not going to be well to stay in that room the whole time. You need to get up and move around and be safe, sitting at the table if that works for you, so you can be alert and active and participate. It’s wonderful to stay in pajamas and lean back in bed. I did that a couple of weeks ago, and I just found I was tired and took a nap and slept through a tutorial I was supposed to be watching. So try to get up and out, establish those boundaries.

Stick to your boundaries, write them down, communicate in a positive manner. Instead of saying, “Hey, you know, you didn’t get off when I needed you off, or you’re using all of the data,” go back and take a look and see if you can’t in a positive, cooperative approach, work on the solution rather than arguing about a problem. But establish those boundaries and then stick to those boundaries.

Strategy 2: Keeping In Touch

Another strategy for staying focused during remote learning is to really be sure that you are keeping in touch with your professor and your classmates, your cohort. Reach out to them. Reach out to your professors. If you’re not clear on something, chances are that your cohorts aren’t either. So I guess I would encourage you to reach out to your cohort first. Say, “Hey, did you understand when

that assignment got shifted to our what we’re supposed to do now?” If you’re still not clear on it, a lot of my students will say, “hey, Professor, my cohort is not clear on yada yada yada.” And so one of you is coming forward as a spokesperson to clear it up. And then as the professor, I go on our learning platform and I can write a clarification email if needed, or resolve the issue. But reach out to your professor, schedule those zoom meetings in during their virtual office hours.

Reach out to your cohorts about having a nightly group connection. Just a ten-minute touchdown as a cohort, or a weekly virtual happy hour. In our program we do a weekly touchdown with students – actually we do two of them. We do a Monday morning town hall meeting where we jump on as a cohort and the professor’s are all on there. And we just go through some housekeeping issues and changes regarding a case or whatever. And then we have a Thursday class touchdown which is where we go over some of our more clinical skills and things like that, as we move forward learning how to be speech pathologists, but still in touch with everybody.

Stay in the loop! And if you feel like you’re on the outside of the loop, step back in and say, “Hey, what’s going on here, or is not positive,” and then say, “hey, let’s get together for a quick five minutes. How’s everybody doing?” So keep in touch with your professor!

Strategy 3: Understand What Happens After Class

The third thing is, understand what happens after class. When your professor clicks off, she or he has a lot of things that are happening. We are getting tons of emails every day, and lots of tutorials, and problem solving, and just a lot of work. We are getting together on our projects and with other faculty members working hard to figure out and implement e-learning the best we can through the remainder of this semester, and then on through into the next semester. So understand that there’s a lot of pieces going on behind the scenes and figure out where you can do your part to take care of the responsibilities you need to and fill in the gaps where needed. We’re all working together as a team, we’re all in this together. So a very effective way to increase your remote learning is problem solving ways that you can improve the whole effort for all of us moving forward.

Strategy 4: Attend to Your Mental Wellness

What happens if you feel like you’re going stir crazy? The fourth strategy is to attend to your mental wellness. This means following a regular sleep schedule. Staying active and going for walks and eating healthy and drinking healthy and maintaining those relationships. It’s also very important that if you have mental health, growing edges, I call them, reach out to a counselor or a very good friend and address those issues. If you feel like you are increasing in depression or anxiety, reach out to the appropriate people please. It is very normal, very normal for all of us to have these feelings that we’re not used to. This is a new normal for us. And hopefully it’s not going to be a permanent normal. But I myself have been surprised at the emotional toll that this has had on me. Being an introvert like I mentioned, at the very beginning I’m happy staying home, but the difficulties I have had adjusting, have surprised me. I was ready for the bigger challenges, I was not ready for the smaller challenges and the emotional toll that took.

Strategy 5: Staying Focused

So that brings me to number five, my tips for remaining focused during this remote learning period. Honor the journey that you’re on; this learning to adjust has been very painful. So I have learned that to stay focused, I need those breaks, I need to pat myself on the back for the things that I’ve done well, and I need to cut myself some slack for things that I haven’t accomplished.


We are not in our natural learning environment and because we’re not in our natural environment, we have got to adjust and adapt. And by following these five strategies, we’re going to be more focused on remote learning. And we’re going to get more from our online classes. There are some good things that will come from this, we will have a sense of resiliency that we will use down the road. Be able to say, “Yes, I went through graduate school or undergraduate school, or I launched my clinical fellowship during the COVID period.”

Self Check-In

There’s no way to go through this other than going through it. So I have created for you a Self Check In document. And I’m going to have it available on the website soon. In the meanwhile, if you’d like to take note and create your own, I’ll talk you through it.

Create a table grid of four across, and seven rows down. The first column title is Area, with the contents listed in the rows below: me, myself and I;  school; cohort; relationships with family and friends; mental wellness;  physical; news and hype. The final three column titles are: how am I doing? ways to improve, and my daily short term goal.

This is a way for you to kind of sketch out on a daily basis how you’re doing. Give yourself a number one through five, one you’re doing great or even zero you’re doing great and the waters are calm, and five would be the waters are quite choppy and the storm is brewing.

What you’re looking for is to manage those numbers by being able to identify where you truly are having some problems. There’s a great app out there called My Life in Pixels. And I just love it because you open it up for the day, in the morning, or afternoon, and you press on the color that your emotions are at at that time. And it’s really a nice way to just kind of gauge how you’re doing. And that is, I guess the most effective strategy I can give you to stay focused during these remote learning times is understood. Stand, where you’re having your troubles and then fix them. If it’s with boundaries, if it’s with wellness, if it’s with connectivity, if it’s communication, address those issues. Don’t sweep them under the carpet, don’t sweep them under the rug, but address them and begin problem solving for those difficulties. And be resilient. You will get through this, we will all get through this and we will be better for it.

Challenge of the Week

Your challenge of the week, learn to embrace the loneliness and find areas to grow outside of yourself. There are some of us who will be lonely and there’s not tons we can do about it right now. But find areas to grow outside of yourself.

Quote of the Week

The quote of the week is by Mandy Hale. “A season of loneliness and isolation is when a caterpillar gets his wings.”

Right now, we as speech pathologists are in a cocoon, and we are waiting safe and protected in our homes until it is safe for us to go out again, and to spread our wings. So this time of metamorphosis is the time for us to grow, reflect and become stronger.

Tip for Success

During this day at shelter time, we must learn to be resilient. Reflect on the lessons you’re learning so you can carry them forward into life after COVID-19 because there will be a life after COVID-19.

Upcoming Episodes

Our very next podcast is titled, “What if you’re Terrified of What’s Coming?” The next episode following that will be episode seven, “What’s Next: the Future of SLPs.” And then episode eight, “Five Must Have Skills for SLPs to Master During this Pandemic.”

I hope today’s conversation has created some aha moments for you and motivated you to become a better SLP, continuing to connect some of those missing links between what you know and how to use that knowledge.

Thank you for listening to ​The Missing Link for SLPs​ podcast!​ If you enjoyed the show, I’d love you to subscribe, rate it and leave a short review.​ Also, please share an episode with a friend. Together we can raise awareness and help more SLPs find and connect those missing links to help them feel confident in their patient care every step of the way.

Follow me on​ ​Instagram​,​ join the Fresh SLP community on ​Facebook​ ​or learn more​ ​ Let’s make those connections. You got this! ​Do you have a question you’d like answered on the show? Send a picture of a Post It note or message to!

Copyright ⓒ 2020 Fresh SLP. All rights reserved. | Mattie Murrey, MA, CCC/SLP | Not a substitute for a formal SLP education or medical advice for patients/caregivers knowledge

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Hosted by Mattie Murrey

May 6, 2020

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