The recurring phrase: “We’re in this together,” is so true for teachers and parents right now. With so many remote learning/hybrid learning situations across the U.S., teachers need effective ways to partner with parents for smooth distance learning. That’s exactly what this post is all about.
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How Can We Engage Parents for Smooth Distance Learning?
There is no one size fits all approach to learning during a global pandemic.
Everyone’s situation with school looks slightly or drastically different right now.
So how in the world can teachers connect and work well with parents to make the best of distance learning?
The one answer that applies to every situation is relationship!
Teachers across grade levels must establish a strong foundation by including parents on learning policies, routines, procedures, expectations–every step of the way!
Reading that might seem like a “DUH!” for some people, but unfortunately, political parties and media headlines continue to pit teachers and parents against each; which means a healthy partnership cannot be stressed enough.
One highly effective way you as a teacher can engage parents for smooth distance learning is to position yourself as an ally with them. This post breaks down practical ideas and ways to do that.
What Are the Most Effective Ways to Communicate with Parents During Distance Learning?
Thankfully there are so many virtual learning tools that allow teachers and parents to efficiently communicate with one another.
Here are some of the most helpful ways to communicate with parents during distance learning:
- Use the Remind app to send out consistent text messages about important dates, class assignments, and sudden changes.
- Set up a Frequently Asked Question webpage for free through Google Sites. This page should include the most essential tips and information for parents to know. –OR–create a mini F.A.Q booklet to send home.
- If you’re using Google Classroom, enable weekly email reports that show what students accomplished for the week. These reports can also give a snapshot of what assignments may be missing.
- Set up and provide virtual “office hours” or online check-in times for parents to come talk to you and ask questions about your distance learning expectations.
- Try to keep all important information in one place, this will make it easier for parents to recall details because they’ll know where to access your class info
- Send postcards and notes in the mail to students to build strong relationships.
- Make time for phone calls with families; don’t wait for parents to hear your voice when something goes wrong or just for parent-teacher conferences.
So many important non-verbal communication cues are lost through screens. Just typing messages by email or on your learning platform won’t be enough.
Help parents and students get to know you with on-going phone calls that show how much you care.
How Can Parents Support Online Learning?
Since teachers cannot–and should not–do everything alone, there are helpful things parents can do to partner with teachers for smooth distance learning.
Here are several examples of how:
- Develop a consistent learn-from-home routine. Establishing a consistent schedule for learning makes a huge difference in your child’s success and attitude toward distance learning.
- Set up a learning space away from distractions. This doesn’t have to be a fancy, “Pinterest-worthy” homeschool area. Somewhere clean, well-lit, able to get a good Wi-fi signal, and away from toys/video games/ TV.
- Keep learning materials within easy reach of your learning space. This includes pencils and sharpeners, other school supplies, and other study materials.
- When the teacher’s directions or assignments aren’t clear, please show grace and patience when you email or contact the teacher. Remember, many of us teachers aren’t just engaging your child through distance learning, but we’re also helping our own kids at home with their online learning.
- Teach your kid how to pace himself or herself by taking short breaks in between assignments.
- If you’re sending your kid to school–please send them with their own face masks on lanyards with their own hand sanitizer. Even though some schools are providing this, it helps when your kid already has theirs in place.
- Keep sick kids at home at least 2 full weeks!! Tell your child’s teacher as soon as possible if your kid shows symptoms that you believe are related to COVID-19.
- Make a list of all the learning websites and apps logins and passwords. Trust me, this will make your life so much easier during distance learning!
Beyond every practical communication strategy, remember that it’s okay to be honest with your child’s teacher if your family is just really struggling with the distance learning set up.
We are ALL in a position where we need to give and receive so much grace!
So the most effective way to partner for smooth distance learning is to remember that we are all taking this one step at a time with an open mind that things could change in an instant.
Practical Tips to Help Parents Navigate Distance Learning
More Simple Ways That Teachers Can Improve Working Relationships with Families
Brick to Click. Fluid Instruction. These are quick phrases I’m keeping in mind as a teacher for this remote learning season we’re in.
Here are more effective ways to partner with parents for smooth distance learning:
- Be sure to DOUBLE CHECK any websites and links you want to assign BEFORE you send the info to families. Nothing is more frustrating to a parent/student than broken links and websites that aren’t helpful.
- Speaking of websites, be mindful of sending students to websites that have lots of sidebar ads and pop-up boxes. Choosing more kid-friendly websites that do not have these prevent distractions and inappropriate content.
- Have realistic expectations about the amount of work that can be completed at home. Since many parents are also working from home, it’s unrealistic to assign 8 hours’ worth of at-home work.
- Choose more than one way to send out communications. Consider email, the Remind app, a class website, a closed Facebook group just for your class, etc.
- Assign class jobs to students to encourage students to help with the messaging that’s going out. For instance, have older students be in charge or helping with the class newsletter.
- Last, but certainly not least: celebrate progress with students and parents!!
We’re all doing something none of us have ever done in our lifetimes! So yeah, give yourself, your students, and their families big virtual pats on the backs for every week of completion with distance learning!