Should schools be open for in-person leaning? Is 100% remote instruction sufficient? Does a hybrid delivery of education offer an acceptable compromise? Not to be overlooked are the challenges and frustration felt by children, parents and teachers. The heated debate on safely educating students continues.
Professor of Education and Director of Childhood and Childhood Special Education Dr. Christine Willard and Assistant Professor of Education Miriam Velez, two veteran educators at Nyack College’s School of Education, epitomize the compassion and competence that parents desire for their children’s learning experience. They offer the following helpful strategies to parents as they navigate home or hybrid learning for their children.
• Parents need to remind themselves that they know so much (self-efficacy). This means they can do what they set out to do. During this time, personal esteem may be low and folks are tired. So, remind yourself of all the skills God has given you and that they translate to being a great support to your children at this time.
• Make transitions clear from “school” to “down time.” Be careful to make the boundaries non-blurry so that a child develops a healthy perspective on schooling. The “unschooling” movement is wonderful, the notion that school is all around us, but young children need to learn how to set margins and move from one context eventually without adult guidance.
• Set incentives along the way for completing work and staying on task. The younger the child is, the closer in time increments the incentives should be.
• Celebrate achievements, post the child’s work, and have fun read-alouds!
• Turn family outings into field trips and engage the whole family in something the child is learning in school.
• Christian parents, be specific as you pray with your children about their school needs. This is a great time to show your child that God is in all aspects of our lives, even school!
• Most importantly, make it clear when you are wearing your “teacher” hat and when you are wearing your “parent” hat. Help children understand by explaining to them that you have multiple roles, but you understand that this is hard for the child to see you as both teacher and parent. You may literally want to take the “hat” off when school hours are done. Many a homeschool parent will understand this.
• Parents and caregivers should keep familiar routines.
• Set a schedule for the weekdays and weekends.
• Parents don’t have to do it alone. Grandparents can help.
• Take time to exercise and play games.
• Share family memories.
Team Talk Between Parents and Teachers
• Keep a journal and notice what themes emerge regarding the needs of your child. Remember, a child’s behavior day to day is like the numbers on a scale…we need to look at averages.
• Let teachers know you appreciate that they must set some boundaries to guard the health of their lives. Ask ways you can help support their emotional health.
• Remember that teachers are learning right alongside you and your child. They are figuring out things as their school is implementing and working to meet all the challenges involved with moving traditional to online learning.
• Be clear and concise on the issues you need help and understanding. Ask very specific questions.
Additional resources recommended for both parents and teachers include the following websites.
In the wise words of Judith Billings, a former Washington State superintendent of public instruction, “Children are the priority. Change is the reality. Collaboration is the strategy.”