The unexpected transition to remote learning brought on by COVID-19 has led to a newfound respect amid both parents and teachers. Between teachers scurrying to prepare virtual lesson plans and curriculums and parents juggling multiple children, jobs, and housework, each party has their own set of challenges that they’ve had to overcome.
Parents are now stepping into a new, unfamiliar role of being more present in day-to-day education; technology has been a major factor in facilitating distance learning and keeping teachers, students, and parents connected during this unprecedented time. Some might even argue that this new normal has forged closer and stronger relationships between teachers and families, allowing them to connect more frequently than they normally would.
In the last few months, parents have had to lean on teachers to provide them with the tools and tips they need to succeed with learning at home. Digital communication platforms can be a huge help in streamlining communication and sharing announcements and instructions between teachers and parents. Through personalized tools, constant correspondence, and increased accessibility, teachers can help make this transition as seamless as possible for parents.
Set Easy-To-Follow Directions
Online learning can be flexible and enriching for students, but just like in a traditional classroom, both students and parents need a set of routines and procedures. Predictability is extremely important. Teachers should be creating weekly schedules to keep parents informed on what needs to be completed for the week ahead. Sharing this on a Monday via their preferred communication tool can ensure that they have something to reference daily throughout the week to stay ahead of the game.
It’s also important for teachers to easily link to all key resources that parents might need to help their children complete assignments. Having everything hyperlinked in one place can make it easier for parents to quickly access important information, videos, and worksheets and give them the tools to communicate instructions to their children effectively.
Utilize Resources to Support Parents
Parents are juggling multiple responsibilities on a day-to-day basis, which can make it difficult for them to stay as engaged as possible during this time. Utilizing the resources from digital communication tools and modern technology can make all the difference. Setting up weekly/monthly office hours is a great way to maintain regular communication with parents and students. Taking it a step further and allowing parents to select times that work with their schedules is even better. Tools like ClassTag allow parents to schedule conferences virtually within timeframes that work for them.
Virtual conferences are a wonderful opportunity for teachers to review their students’ transitions into distance learning. Teachers can use this time to address what concerns they may have and outline an action plan. This allows teachers and parents to collaborate on common goals and then outline the steps that each party should take to achieve these goals during this time.
Another helpful tip is to discuss with parents what their preferred point of communication is (i.e., email, text, app, etc.). Establishing which form of technology they use most can make it easier and more efficient to communicate important information and/or announcements. If teachers have the ability, they can even give each family a call to make it more personal. Taking the time to share what parents can expect their children’s learning to look like during this period can go a long way.
Build Relationships and Make It Fun
In practice, this new environment encourages the building of deeper relationships with students, because of the opportunity to interact one on one with students and their families. Beyond using respective learning tools traditionally, there are numerous exciting and fun opportunities that teachers can set up for parents and their children to learn. Virtual experiences, like field trips, truly bring the interactive learning experience of going to a museum or visiting with wildlife right to the virtual classroom. Teachers can share links to online tours and videos from national landmarks like the Smithsonian, the San Diego Zoo, the National Aquarium, and more.
Teachers can also take this a step further by designing a “family-created school museum.” This can be a great way to get parents involved by helping their children curate interesting objects, family heirlooms, etc. to present to their virtual classroom either through video presentations, vlogs, or even podcasts.
Another fun idea is to host monthly spirit days when both parents and students can take a break from the day-to-day monotony of sweatshirts and business-casual attire. Crazy hair day, sports team spirit, and mismatch days can all happen remotely. Teachers can help parents plan ahead by scheduling spirit days in advance so that parents get reminders ahead of time and on the day of the event.
Moving to the virtual classroom can seem overwhelming, but teachers can use this time as a golden opportunity to forge relationships outside of the traditional classroom by showing parents that they are available to help. Through simple and clear weekly instructions, virtual accessibility, and creative activities, parents can get through this transition with ease and develop more meaningful relationships with teachers in the process.
Vlada Lotkina is the co-founder and CEO of ClassTag, a free communication platform for schools that’s designed to fuel and inspire parent engagement, used by over 25 schools and two million parents and teachers across the U.S.
Yes, parents have to be teachers, psychologists, and parents literally in these tough times. The same about teachers – now their work isn’t about teaching only. We should support each other and do this work together.
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