When our children are grown, they’ll tell their own kids about a time when they would excitedly hop out of bed on a winter school day morning and eagerly wait for the signal of a pinnacle day of their childhood. They might describe how they would cross their fingers, praying for that long-awaited chime on their parent’s cell phone: a chime that triggered a smile, generated a collective shout of joy, and cleared the way for kids across the area to stay in their pajamas a little longer before heading out to slip and slide through the neighborhood. A chime notifying students and parents that schools were closed for the day due to inclement weather.
I think snow days are likely a thing of the past. My prediction is that the concept of snow days died with the pandemic of 2020.
Why? Because we’ve been forced into a new era. Parents and teachers have spent the past six months learning about how to support teaching and learning in a virtual classroom environment, one that can exist and operate regardless of Iowa’s weather.
And while it’s a novelty for all of us now, we’re about to get quite good at harnessing learning that is available outside of traditional classroom settings.
My colleagues at Grant Wood Area Education Agency have been working hard with the school districts in our area, preparing teachers and administrators to support students in this new world of virtual learning. They share with me that many of the strong instructional practices that work to support kids in regular classrooms are the same instructional strategies that will support successful learning in virtual classrooms as well.
As a bonus, my digital learning colleagues shared three reminders that parents like you and I need to know to help our kids be successful in these virtual learning environments:
1 – Be flexible.
Our teachers understand that your kids will have varying access to technology and support at home. They know that some parents will be available during the day to support virtual learning, and others will only be available in the evenings. Just as your teachers are building flexibility into their plans for the year, parents need to anticipate that there will be changes throughout this school year. Give your teachers grace. In most cases, teachers and administrators have spent the past five months reinventing their entire classroom experience; there are likely to be course adjustments along the way.
2 – Communicate with your child’s teachers.
Many districts will have a ‘home base’ or platform where announcements and assignments will be posted, and those platforms may vary within a district based on your student’s age. Familiarize yourself with that home base, and make sure you’ve checked there for information first before asking questions of the classroom teacher. When you do need to ask specific questions, find out if there’s a good time of day when you can reach out to ask questions. And when your child has questions, how would the teacher prefer that they reach out to get feedback from their teacher?
Communication will be critical during this upcoming school year, and knowing how, where, and when to get information will save parents and teachers from navigating a never-ending chain of emails.
3 – Set boundaries and guidelines for your kids.
Where is the physical space that the kids will use for learning? When someone is engaged in a Zoom or Meet Up, what rules need to be followed? (Should a ‘do not disturb’ sign be placed on the door? Are headphones required in your home while participating in online learning? What are the family’s rules for disrupting others who are working or learning?) A few ground rules will help you avoid battles later.
This fall, our children’s learning experiences should look and feel different from what we experienced after the abrupt closure of schools this spring. Districts and teachers have been collaborating to help provide better support, better content, and better learning for students.
It won’t be perfect, but our kids will learn more with respectful communication and planning between their parents and their teachers.
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