As parents and teachers actively search for best practices and helpful recommendations for navigating online learning, there is indeed hope!
Parents are deeply concerned at becoming teachers because they feel ill-equipped for the challenge. I have assumed the responsibility of being my daughter’s “substitute” fifth-grade teacher and it is a daunting task even for someone like me with two decades of teaching experience. The workload and time commitment along with navigating online learning is stressful for everyone. I feel an enormous pressure to make sure my daughter receives a quality learning experience.
I’d like to share a few helpful hints that are working for me. I hope they can ease the stress surrounding the online learning experience for you, too.
Helpful Hint #1: Create An Environment Conducive To Learning
It is safe to say kitchens, living rooms, and bedrooms have become makeshift offices and workstations for parents and children during the quarantine. Under these unusual circumstances, it is difficult to find a quiet place to work and study without family members hanging around and sitting on top of each other. Besides combatting the frustrations that accompany cabin fever, parents need to establish clear boundaries when it is time for schoolwork.
A great exercise is to identify a quiet workspace for parents and children. It might be a fun family activity to create signs, decorate the area, post weekly checklists, and establish a set of rules. Most importantly, parents need to oversee their children’s work and be accessible for questions, guidance, and clarity. Parents need to provide substantial technical support that goes well beyond WiFi issues. Online learning is a vastly different approach to teaching and independence comes with maturity. Therefore, we need to carefully monitor our children’s work and hold them accountable.
Helpful Hint #2: You Can Never Go Wrong With A Checklist
Checklists help serve as a roadmap to achieving learning goals and the completion of assignments. It can also be used as a source of motivation for students. They can be created by parents or teachers and tailored to fit one’s needs. If you are a teacher, the best approach is to create a simple checklist for each subject that you teach and send it out to the parents at the beginning of the week. Some teachers have become creative and attached a brief video outlining the week’s lesson plan, assignments, and instructions on how to access all the information.
A checklist allows parents to follow up with their children on assignments, ask them what they are learning, and take a closer look at the overall quality of work. It is one thing to check off a box and say an assignment has been completed on time. It is a totally different conversation to use the checklists as opportunities to encourage children to produce quality work and develop time management skills. Here is an example of a simple checklist.
Helpful Hint #3: Parents Set The Tone With An Assist From The Teachers
Begin each day with a sense of purpose. A good start is to summarize what the children have already learned and get them excited about upcoming assignments. If they must read an article for one of their subjects, it is a great idea for the parent to do it as well and engage them in a conversation.
As parents are getting their children excited about learning and paying close attention to online learning, teachers need to understand the concept of moderation. They are under pressure to provide students with all the work they were to complete if they were in a traditional classroom. However, this is simply not feasible. Teachers must continue to make the necessary adjustments and reestablish new goals for learning.
Some teachers have taken it a step further and provided parents with categories for each of the weekly online assignments such as “Must Do” and “May Do.” Techniques like this help parents prioritize the work for their children.
Teachers should not be afraid to try something new and solicit honest feedback from parents. An e-mail summarizing the previous week’s lessons and preview of new content is beneficial to everyone. A useful technique is to send out an occasional survey to the parents as well as maintain regular communication. A scheduled weekly or bi-weekly check-in with parents individually might be a good idea. It is important to listen to what the parents have to say and what they are observing in the online learning experience.
One must always remember we are in this together and no one is alone. While the circumstances are less than ideal for everyone, there is a unique opportunity to help our children develop important life skills through online learning. A deep commitment and attention to detail from both parents and teachers can create a rock-solid foundation for our children amid this horrific pandemic.
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