When parents become teachers during pandemic, College of Education has some tips
School schedule disruptions often appear in the form of a fire drill, severe weather event or short-term medical issue.
As millions of U.S. students and teachers navigate new daily learning routines during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, however, there is a long-term concern developing among parents.
“Students are pretty resilient,” said Dr. Patricia Rocha, director of the Office of Educator Preparation at Texas State University. “Routines might be changed, and teachers can typically help students cope. The bigger challenge right now is the unknown. We just have to be mindful of how we present the current reality of the situation to students.”
Many school districts started with a one or two-week school closure. Now it could be a semester-long situation. While parents play a bigger role in both lesson planning and execution, Rocha said a top-line need is to be realistic regarding self-evaluation. “Don't try to be a teacher,” Rocha said. “Be more of a facilitator very much in terms of what a parent already does. Parents are the bridge connecting the teacher to the student.”
When it comes to making progress during schooling at home, positive steps are not always going to stand out. That goes for both teachers in a traditional class setting and parents with little or no formal training as teachers. “We (teachers) might not know the impact we have on that child until later,” Rocha said. “There are informal evaluations that can be embraced, such as asking your child, 'How do you feel?' or 'How did it go today?' ”
How learning environments are set up will depend on the resources within each district. Some have extensive online class capabilities and others are not set up for remote learning. “Even if districts and schools are not set up for remote learning, they are making teachers available by phone or email,” Rocha said. “In that case, it will be a parent asking a teacher about how to best explain material and how to break it down for the student.”
The process has some similarities to other learning curves parents have experienced with their children. Riding a bike is a teaching moment that includes visible improvement parents can track over time. As far as formal progress evaluations -- Rocha advised parents not to get too formal. “Teachers also rely on observation and feedback,” she said.
Within the home-learning experience, many parents have to balance their work requirements either at home or from a remote office. A high-tech instruction method will usually include a login and engagement with a teacher through Zoom or a similar platform. For parents who need to get their kids engaged on that schedule while doing their work in a separate space, the morning will almost mimic the same schedule as going to school. “The one that is harder is if the school is using a low-tech system,” Rocha said. “That requires more guidance from a parent.”
Rocha has some suggestions:
- Look at your work schedule and try to be flexible and adjust.
- Give your child time to work independently.
- Be open to receiving questions and have a plan.
- Look at learning for the whole week. Can I do this on a Saturday?
- Ask, what can the child do independently?
With an education format and timing, Rocha advises parents to teach to their strengths. “Every parent has funds of knowledge to share, for example, there are lessons in your family story,” Rocha said. “If you like to cook or tell stories, use that to facilitate learning. There is a balance that needs to happen. The first part of learning will be parent/teacher communication. The lessons will not be equal minute to minute of what we had in a school situation.”
Learning will also continue to take place outside the home. Museums that are offering virtual tours are one option, or virtual trips to a zoo. “Personal interests and strengths come into that extracurricular time,” Rocha said. “Use it as a fun way to connect but keep it as a family engagement activity. Don't treat it as a teaching activity.”
One silver lining could be stronger bonds formed between parents and teachers. “These are trying times,” Rocha said. “This is hard for educators. They miss their children being in class. They want the best for them. It is a lot for teachers to process, too. Teachers are working hard and doing the best they can. They want to be out there (teaching).”