Though this year is certainly not the back-to-school experience we’re used to, teachers are no less committed to providing the best learning experience for their students-and this year, that success is amplified by the crucial role of parents and families.
During last year’s period of remote learning, schools saw heightened levels of parent involvement, and teachers want to capitalize on this momentum. But how is this done effectively? As many have figured out, engaging with students is a hard-enough task from behind a computer screen, so how can teachers draw parents into the conversation–and keep them there?
Over Communication is Better than No Communication
It can be challenging connecting with students when they’re not in the classroom as usual. Building set-time into your calendar for reaching out to students and families is a top priority. Check-in calls have a positive effect on students’ social-emotional health and also provide a quick opportunity to catch-up with parents. Having multiple points of communication with families will definitely expedite this process: emails, phone calls, text messages. With many parents also working remotely, there is a higher likelihood that your message is being viewed.
Just as you do with your students in the first days of school, it’s important to set guidelines for parents. Help them to understand what’s expected of their students and how it translates into parental support. Students might be required to submit daily status updates or attend lessons in 45-minute increments. You should communicate not only the expectation of the student, but how parents can contribute to a positive learning environment for their students. In addition to everything else happening in their lives, parents have now taken on the role of facilitating their child’s education. This is new territory for them, and many may not be equipped to provide the guidance needed on their own. Teachers can help to relieve this anxiety by outlining parental expectations in their weekly communication plans.
Here are some suggestions to include:
Help parents to understand the function of programs students are using to complete and submit their work. Your school is likely using a mix of online resources for virtual learning, and it’s easy for parents to get their wires crossed when juggling multiple platforms for multiple students. On your teacher homepage (or wherever you house your online classroom), include a resource section for parents. Many of the programs you use are aware of these challenges and have provided their own resources for curious parents. You can also include quick screencasts of yourself briefly explaining the tools students will use in terms parents will understand.
Be sure to:
Assessments at Home
Many students are taking tests virtually this school year. As with day-to-day work, there are specific guidelines for parents to follow that help make sure their students put forth their best, most authentic work. First, make sure parents are aware of what the assessment’s purpose is–what is being evaluated, and why it is important to your student’s learning. Help them to understand that assessments are built-in to the curriculum at intervals throughout the year to gauge if students are making progress. In many cases, like with Classworks, assessments directly influence the work their child receives as part of their instruction.
If students will be taking different types of assessments, be sure to communicate what those differences mean for parents. For example, a student might be selected for progress monitoring probes after taking their universal screener. While both impact students’ instruction, they accomplish totally separate things and parents should understand what those differences mean for their student.
See what resources Classworks suggests for introducing parents to assessments:
Keeping Students Engaged and Motivated
No one is immune to screen fatigue, and with students now spending multiple hours in front of their computers, they are at higher risk of burnout. Parents can help their students stay invigorated throughout the day. Rewarding them in small ways periodically is an effective measure to keep students engaged. Brain breaks are especially popular. Have parents schedule these short breaks in intervals throughout the day. This could be a chance for students to get up and stretch, dance out the pins and needles, or have a tasty snack with their siblings.
Other ways to engage students:
Supporting Parents at the Site/District Level
Set up office hours to offer technical support and troubleshooting with parents. Make parents aware of any technical resources that are being provided, like technical contact information, online help centers, and parent forums. Having this streamlined process helps minimize the workload for the teacher and ensures the correct people are working to resolve any issues with district logins, content filtering, software malfunctions, etc.
Ways that schools/districts can further support parents:
This school year might look differently than the ones we’re accustomed to, but with educators, parents, and students working together, this year can be just as successful as any other year!