Guidance for Equitably Supporting Families in Remote Learning
There are currently 1.26 billion learners out of school -- an educational disruption that has never before been experienced in the world. Many school districts have transitioned to remote learning. What does remote learning even mean? That’s the question many parents are asking as they are trying to understand and manage it at the same time. As school districts are pivoting to determine how to best support teachers with curriculum for remote learning, they are also figuring out how to craft messaging to guide parents on what to expect and next steps. We know this can be overwhelming for parents and wanted to offer some guidance for teachers on how to help support their students' families.
As we think about how to support families, we must keep equity at the forefront since the pandemic has magnified the glaring gaps of inequity for the most vulnerable students and families. As educators, we know that the remote learning shift cannot be implemented as a one-size-fits-all adjustment. As education was pushed into homes across the county almost overnight, we must remember that, just like classrooms, homes are all made up of different students, parents, environments, and circumstances. There are single parents who still have to leave their homes as “essential” workers while trying to fit time in for remote instruction with their child(ren). There are families with two parents who are equally challenged with working to maintain their schedules while supporting their children who may have different learning needs. Some students have multiple siblings, and some don’t. Just like in the classroom, there are some families with one-to-one devices, while there are others who have to schedule time and share devices with siblings or other members of the family. There are parents with a high level of technological proficiency and some with no familiarity at all. In some families, only the student speaks fluent English, and parents are not able to assist the student with remote learning. Some homes have optimal environments for learning with space for everyone to work and some do not. We have to differentiate remote learning for families and remember that families are feeling overwhelmed and stressed, with a pinch of frustration, over the sudden shift in the load of expectations for their children’s education.
As this pandemic has placed us all on a steep learning curve, there are major adjustments being made in households across the country. Kitchen tables become half classroom and half office space, and bedrooms become the new conference room as entire families adjust to working from home. Parents are learning how to Google Meet and Zoom back to their own meetings for the first time alongside their children’s in-home classrooms. Parents are being hyperlinked to every school document and are bombarded with a host of login passwords for every digital application their child(ren) uses. They are expected to create family schedules and new routines simultaneously as they realize that their previous “anchors” or routines are no longer relevant. For the first time, parents are deeply in the trenches with their children alongside teachers and school administrators. How do we keep parents from feeling like they are failing at remote learning? How can administrators, teachers, and parents co-create differentiated remote learning that takes the diverse needs of families into consideration?
To help answer these questions, we created a Quick Guide for Teachers in Supporting Parents.
1. Encourage Parents
We can all remember our first months, maybe even years, of teaching. The sleepless nights trying to lesson plan, learning student names, grading using a rubric you hadn’t yet learned. Many of us had great coaches or mentors, and if we didn’t, we probably wished for one. Now, picture parents. My point here is that parents need a coach, a mentor, someone cheering them on as they try out this new “teaching job.” As great educators, we naturally encourage our students when we see they may need extra love and also when they are knocking it out of the ballpark. Let’s do this for parents. Sending weekly messages with some simple care goes a long way. A pro tip here-- we can also send fun video messages or have students write messages to their parents during a morning meeting activity. This can uplift parents and help them see that we are INDEED in this together.
2. Provide options for parents to choose from and differentiate learning
Though things are very busy and we are all searching for time to complete everything on our to-do list, we must keep equity in mind. Acknowledging that students are now learning in their home and no home is the same, our assignments and scheduling should be planned with a high focus on differentiation and choice. Consider organizing assignments in the form of a Playlist. This will aid in students' ability to work through a series of activities at their own pace. This should be a healthy mix of both online and offline activities. When communicating information to parents, always be clear and concise. Try creating a living document or one-stop-shop for parents to find all that they need. Lastly, providing parents with tips and guides will help them personalize learning to meet their needs in the home.
3. Empower Parent Voice
Now more than ever is a great opportunity for parents and teachers to come together and share varying perspectives and ideas. Using the collective wisdom from parent-teacher collaboration will ensure all voices are heard and will better inform learning and instruction for all learners. Effective two-way communication is key to involving parents in the learning experience. Consider using your virtual meeting tool to hold weekly “office hours” or “parent drop-ins” for parents where they can drop in and get questions answered or get support. Be sure to schedule this and communicate your preferred time frame (i.e 30 mins-1 hour) to parents. Keep in mind parents whose time frames may not work with yours. In this case, it is a best practice to have a scheduling tool, such as Calendly, available to share with parents. Another great way to empower parent voice and take both teacher and parent time into consideration is by sharing a survey such as a Google Form with parents. This could be a quick survey that checks-in with parents at the beginning, middle, or end of the week.
For both educators and parents, the recent days of uncertainty have been challenging and overwhelming. To be honest, at times it may even feel like we are failing because the struggle is so real. However, let’s shift our perspective together and recognize these moments, not as a “fail,” but rather as what A.P.J Abdul Kalam refers to as a F.A.I.L- First Attempt In Learning. Let's rethink how we can leverage all that we have learned so far in this new way of learning.
We’d love to hear your thoughts and reflections on how we can continue to support parents. Connect with us via Twitter: @Bernier_Jenn @CCThaddies or email: BernierJennifer@linclearning.com and CassondraThaddies@linclearning.com.