With schools under lockdown, parents have taken on the role of teachers, in addition to being caregivers and workers. In these uncertain times, it’s hard to say when things will go back to “normal”. This situation has elicited all kinds of responses from parents. Many have praised teachers for their dedication while others feel ambivalent about remote learning.
The truth is that, given the circumstances, these feelings are normal and no parent should feel bad for not being able to do it all. Some of this pressure can be taken off their shoulders with the right help from schools.
After all, parental involvement is important in any situation. High parent expectations predict positive academic outcomes, regardless of the students’ background. Plus, this works both ways: parents are happy to be involved in the learning process because they expect their children to do well and, because they are actively helping, their children will actually do well.
Best practices for supporting parents with remote learning
Now more than ever, schools need to establish a good relationship with parents, as their actions and expectations play a role in remote learning as well, especially for younger students, who have not yet developed the skills to set goals and standards for themselves.
The first step is to give parents access to your learning platform through parent accounts. This is where they can easily communicate with teachers and other school staff, but also see their child’s progress. Here are other steps to take to support parents during remote learning:
Setting realistic goals and expectations
Remote learning, just like classroom learning, is goal-oriented. During classes, students don’t have to be aware of each learning objective, but in remote learning environments, they have to know what they’re aiming for. For younger students, this is where parents usually step in.
As a teacher, you should have clear objectives with explanations at the beginning of each online lesson. This makes it easy for parents to offer help if needed. For example, using your learning management system (LMS), start each section by describing what, why, and how students will accomplish these goals. This makes it easy for parents to offer help if needed.
Last but not least, your learning goals and objectives should be as realistic as possible. Parents are already struggling to get so many things done in this period. A good word of advice is for all teachers to work together and try to find a common schedule in which students don’t get overwhelmed with many assignments that are due at the same time.
Making lesson plans more flexible
How many parents are available all day for lessons? A third of them? Half? Maybe none? The truth is that unless you have a very homogeneous classroom, you’ll see a variety of situations. The different levels of parental involvement can create disparities in how well your students are doing.
Some parents have the time to go over every resource you post, others will have to just check their parent accounts and help when they can. As long as students have every resource they need, their parents don’t have to be there all the time.
Also, before assigning tasks that require a lot of help from parents you should take into account how realistic this is for each family. In fact, this is a good time for students to manage learning on their own most of the time. Otherwise, more flexible due dates for assignments are a good idea.
Finding value in small teaching opportunities
For better or worse, families are together most of the time now. This is a rare opportunity to teach children things that they’ve probably wanted, but haven’t had the time to. As a consequence, it’s important to stress the value of these moments. Students can learn about their family history, handling money and budgets, or simply day to day activities such as cooking.
Assigning little tasks such as learning about gardening or doing simple science experiments in the kitchen encourages parents to take these moments to connect with their children.
The idea is that informal education is just as important as the formal one, and doing these optional activities (non-graded) helps parents build more confidence in their abilities to teach and/or mentor.
Having an organized support system
Now more than ever, it’s important to have a good parent-teacher relationship. In many cases, this is up to the teachers to reach out. However, parents can offer support to each other as well. That’s why gathering everyone together can be as simple as setting up a group for parents in your LMS. There, they can ask questions and offer advice when needed.
Otherwise, organizing weekly calls with parents is also a good idea, but if it’s something that can be addressed through a message or email, a video conference isn’t an absolute necessity.
An organized support system also means having all teachers agree on some things. For example, teachers can receive and send messages through their LMS so everyone knows that there is one primary method to reach teachers. Having many separate platforms for communication lowers productivity considerably and might even put off parents from reaching out in the first place.
Read more: Keeping parents in the loop with edtech
Dealing with language and cultural differences
This period might be especially challenging for ESL learners and in general for parents whose first language isn’t the one that is used in school. Cultural differences might also come into play at this time so teachers need to figure out a way to involve these parents as well.
For example, if you set up parent accounts, they are able to change the platform’s language to the one they prefer to use. Show them how to auto-translate everything in their browser so they don’t miss out on important announcements.
Make sure to express that doing activities such as reading in their native language is just as important. Bilingual children have certain advantages such as an improved working memory, which is sure to translate into better academic performance in the future.
Working as a team means giving parents insight into daily activities, setting realistic goals and expectations, being mindful of cultural differences, and having a great communication system. More than that, it’s about reassuring parents that they have your full support as educators to do the best they can.
Ioana believes that education in action is the only way to change the world. When she is not writing about learning and ed tech, she can usually be seen reading a book and drinking lots of coffee.