By Roz Edward
While the focus of virtual learning during school closings and in-person restrictions to ensure ongoing and quality education for students is the new normal, some parents of cyber students find themselves thrown into a new world of parental involvement, that many are ill-prepared for. In short, they too are finding themselves on an accelerated an unfamiliar learning curve too.
Not only do parents assume the role of surrogate teachers while adjusting to kids at home, many are returning to their pre-pandemic work environments and trusting that their charges will forego the typical distractions of life and learning at home without the guidance of an adult at home. So how does a working parent step into the role of teacher’s aide?
COVID-19 created a perfect storm for parents with varying degrees of tech expertise and students at varying benchmarks in the learning process. On the whole, parents who were relied on PTA meetings and student conferences led by professionals to determine their child’s academic progress, now find themselves intimately engaged in day-to-day instruction brought on by the dictates of educating while sheltering-in-place.
So again, what’s a parent to do?
1. Create designated space(s) for learning – at home students need their own special learning spaces that are comfortable and conducive to the task at hand.
Have your student personalize their learning space by hanging artwork and surrounding themselves with items found in the classroom, including a desk if possible, pencils, pens, books and posters to simulate the classroom experience.
If you have more than one child at home, have each child identify a space best for them to interact with online instructors and classmates. Depending on your child’s learning level and process for comprehending materials this could be a shared space or individual spaces for optimal results.
Also, limit the use of or eliminate altogether any other devices needed to complete their schoolwork. Make it clear that they only get access to cell phones, video games, social media and non-academic websites after the school day ends.
2. Get organized – Put routines and systems in place to help your child get that this is school and to behave accordingly.
Creating a “to-do-list” of assignments, what materials to have ready for class and notes on key items and projects will help keep kids on track of daily school requirements.
3. Teacher parent teamwork – Of course the additional hands-on schoolwork with your kids is a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity to engage your student and embrace the shared learning experience.
Request a virtual parent-teacher conference and come prepared with questions about assignments and your child’s progress.
4. Set expectations – have clear age-appropriate rules for attendance, attention and assignment completion.
Don’t duplicate the science project experiment and takeover building a working volcano or dissecting the brain to expose the cerebral cortex! It’s still their homework so you’ll have to be present but fade to black when your doe-eyed daughter asks you to give her the answer or complete an assignment.
“I just had a parent get on a Google Meet today say that her kid was sleeping and ask[ed] if she could sit in and he could get credit for being present to class,” lamented Anthony Mansur, principal of Stevenson Elementary School in Decatur, IL.
5. Encourage and incorporate socialization
Maintain school day breaks for lunch, recess and time to mingle in a virtual hallway. It’s critical to make sure your child is neither too sedentary or too isolated in the new norm. Take breaks to play and exercise, and if your child is not particularly socially active, arrange online playdates for peer-to-peer interaction.
Keep the at-home learning phenom as normal as possible. Remind your child-student that at the end of the school day they are still expected to handle home as they did when they came home from school. Household chores are still at home responsibilities.
Use time to interact with other parents, remember each parent with a student t home is going through this new experience. This is an ideal time to connect with parents that you might need in the in-school setting and compare notes.
The key to normalizing this pandemic prompted phenom is for both parent and child to be mindful that this is school … elementary, junior high/middle school and high school.
Our students are actually poised to excel in this unprecedented period … sans the historically wrong influences that parents have dreaded for decades.