With growing concerns about COVID-19 being spread through face-to-face classroom instruction, the 2019-2020 school year ironically came to a chaotic halt on Friday, March 13. The months to follow would see teachers teaching lessons via Google Meet and video recordings, taking parent and student calls into late night hours, and parents struggling with math and science problems and upended routines.
When this article goes to print, there is still a very good chance that many of the details for the 2020-2021 school year will still be undecided due to the fear of exposing students and their teachers to COVID-19. This uncertainty leaves many parents questioning whether or not to send their children to school and teachers questioning what instructional days will look like going forward.
It is important for parents to remember that teachers entered into the profession not just for the love of a certain topic or discipline, but for a love of educating and pouring into children. When parents and teachers work together, it creates the ultimate environment for student learning.
Regardless of what is decided for the coming school year, the following suggestions hold true for fostering positive relationships between parents, teachers, and students.
Creating Realistic Routines
As a parent, you may have to choose between different academic schedules, including assigned classroom days and virtual learning. These different learning options may cause instructional days to look a little different as well. One of the many lessons parents and teachers learned in the spring was how much not entering a school building impacted the consistency of daily routine.
“One major benefit of online school or homeschool is that your child can learn anywhere, anytime; however, students still need routine and structure to succeed,” said Dan Reiner of Person Connections Academy. “Designate certain times as learning times, and make sure your students are productive during those times.”
If your student is a night owl, respect their time for late night book reading and video game playing, while still setting firm sleeping and waking times.
If your child is participating in virtual school of any type, their teacher may require Google Meet attendance at certain times during the day which will need to be considered when creating daily routines.
Another factor to take into consideration is the amount of electronic devices in your household that are equipped for learning. Several parents reported having only one device in the home with multiple learners requiring internet and video access. Consider creating a calendar of designated times for each child based on their learning schedules and teacher availability.
Regardless of your child’s age or grade, it is important that you request or access a copy of their class schedule online in order to remain informed of what classes they have been assigned and which teachers to contact when questions arise. Make sure you are transparent with teachers about such things as parent work schedules or sibling responsibilities at home, as it will allow them to better understand the unique learning needs of your child.
DCPS Instructional Technology Coordinator Aaron Yeiser suggests parents not only acquaint themselves with the different forms of communication (Remind, teacher email, phone, etc.), but also verify that all of their home, email addresses, and phone numbers, are up to date.
“If I could give advice to parents as they stay connected to schools in just four words, they would be phone, email, apps, and notifications,” said Yeiser. “Our schools use a messaging tool built into our student information system to send messages home to parents and guardians. However, if a parent has outdated phone or email information in our database, the parent and guardian will not receive the important messages.”
Taking Advantage of Technology
As the new school year approaches, it is best to be proactive in obtaining laptops and devices for at home learning. Check with your child’s school to see if you are able to sign out laptops or iPads for virtual learning. If you are concerned about internet access or data usage, check with your child’s school district to see if other internet resources are available.
Although the abundance of instructional and digital learning sites may sometimes feel like technology overload, many of these sites were designed to foster connections between teachers and parents.
“Many teachers use instructional tools such as Infinite Campus and Google Classroom, which work to deliver instructional materials, but also serve as a means of communication with parents and guardians,” Yeiser said. “Each of those [also] have mobile phone apps. Parents need to give schools accurate contact information, download important apps, and keep notifications on. If the parent has updated information and classroom apps, but does not have notifications enabled, there will be a disconnect to vital information.”
Recognizing the Benefits
While virtual learning may not be designed for all students, there are several benefits to be gained from this unique situation. According to Tracy Duval, a staff developer at Learning Sciences Innovation (LSI) and virtual instructor for John Hopkins University, virtual learning is an excellent opportunity to allow for more student accountability.
“Teachers are nurturers — we have the mindset that we need to be the purveyor of information,” Duval said. “With the shift to virtual learning, we are now encountering that shift to students owning their learning. That’s hugely beneficial, even in daily life. Our goals are for career and college readiness — we are giving them that ownership at an earlier age — teaching us as teachers to step back and make the students be the thinkers while we are taking on the role of the facilitator.”
Giving Yourself Grace
Even the best classroom teachers were not necessarily designed to teach their own children full time. It is important to build in blocks of time to step away from learning for a little while and still take time to have fun with your kids. Even if you have a designated place for school work and digital learning, allow yourself to get creative and utilize the kitchen or outdoors for math and science lessons as they present themselves.
Dr. Julie Bemerer, a psychologist in Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, recognizes that the stressors of parents taking on more roles at home in light of an uncertain school year can be stressful and overwhelming.
“Many parents have lost their jobs or are facing the potential…Those who are working from home are doing it while also trying to teach their children at the same time,” Bemerer said. “And our front line workers have a whole other set of worries, including trying to prevent bringing the coronavirus into their homes.”
These situations help to increase the importance of having a trusted parent with children of similar ages or grades to partner with so that you have another grown up to talk to and use as a resource.
“Talk to someone who is reassuring to you,” Bemerer said. “It may be calming to describe what’s bothering you and to get it off your chest. Having this type of support system is important during these challenging times.”