Responses to 5 Common Questions You Won’t Want to Miss!
Do you know what is most important? The past months of change and uncertainty have caused many families to reflect and consider this question surrounding their own human experience. A silver lining for most families has been additional family time or an opportunity to focus their attention on the value of family and loved ones. As families prepare for the reopening of schools they may feel a little overwhelmed by what lies ahead of them. As a community, we have the opportunity to work together in helping families to care for one another.
I have included five common questions below which seem to surface often as parents discuss the potential of reopening. As families consider these tips and suggestions it is important to weigh them with the priorities you have set. If you are able to identify a few guiding priorities for your family as you navigate this uncharted educational journey, they can serve as an anchor to help you stay on course.
There are many different plans coming from districts and schools. How can I better understand what my options are for my student and get the latest information from my school?
- In order to receive the most current information from the school or district, parents should make certain their contact information is correct and up to date on the school records (i.e. which includes email and text numbers). This is a fairly simple task, but it is a frequent obstacle as schools try to reach out to communicate with families. It is also a good idea to update medical information and emergency contact information as well.
- Highly mobile families should discuss options with trusted school employees for providing additional approved family contacts who may be reached in order to help keep the family connected to the school community.
- Parents should also check district and school websites for the latest postings on reopening plans and procedures. If help is needed in finding the information, parents should call the district student services department for assistance.
- It may not be possible for families or schools to anticipate all the possible scenarios that may occur as schools reopen. As the school year begins to unfold, protocols, procedures, and plans may change as we adapt to this evolving situation. Make an informed decision for your personal family circumstance by focusing on the most important issues for your family, and using the information that is currently available.
My child will be attending face to face classes and they feel anxious about navigating some of the new safety requirements at school? What can I do at home to help them be prepared?
- One of the best ways to help students prepare to enter a new and different situation is to practice and rehearse through role playing. Rehearsal can improve performance and ease anxiety.
- Parents and students can discuss what typical scenarios might look like in classrooms and hallways. Students will have an opportunity to make mistakes and receive feedback in a familiar and safe environment as they: act out situations, visualize obstacles, and discuss worries. This also allows students to practice problem solving and to learn when to ask for help.
- Sampling, trying on, and finding the right fit for personal protective equipment, as well as learning how to use and wear it appropriately, is also something that can be incorporated into the traditional back to school routines.
My children will be taking classes online. Some of them didn’t do so well in the spring with that format, how can I help them be more successful while balancing the needs of my other children?
- Work from a strength-based approach. As you consider the strengths of each student in your home, work together to design a school schedule that they will officially commit to and that will be compatible with the other learning activity taking place in your home.
Example: My daughter is an early riser. We decided she is most successful when she gets up and gets right to work on projects and assignments which she can do independently without a lot of distraction from the rest of family. She saves the portions she needs help with for later in the morning when parents or older sibling can help, or when the class meets with the teacher for check-in. This also means she might not shower, brush her teeth, or get dressed until later in the morning. This was part of the compromise in the design.
- The school schedule for each student should also help create a boundary between “school” and “home” when the physical environment is the same. It is important for students to have a clear separation during break times and non-school hours.
- Online programs tend to allow families more flexibility in when, where, and how learning takes place. Daily start times may be staggered based on the technology demands in the household and the growth and development of the students in the family (i.e. teens may be more productive with a later start time).
- Using technology (i.e. artificial intelligence) can help parents prompt, time, and record performance. This may assist in reducing family conflict and facilitate self-management in areas such as reading minutes and music practice.
- Some children learn better when they learn together. Working with the teacher to help organize peer study groups may often increase the engagement of students and interest in learning the skills begin taught.
I am not able to work from home. How can I help my children during on-line school when I am not there to monitor their activities during the day?
- A first step would be to speak with the school counselor and/or teacher about any electronic notifications or websites that may be available to remind parents and students about upcoming assignments, deadlines, and exam days. Notifications may also be available, through student information systems, to alert parents concerning missing work, low scores on assignments or tests, and overall grades in class. There are often preferences in these systems that may be selected to activate general school communications in other languages.
- Parents may be able to set regular check-in times during work breaks, as well as set a daily schedule that students follow with specific accountability check points during the day (i.e. texting photos of completed work).
- Parents and schools can re-imagine the roles of parent classroom volunteers. Additionally, families, neighbors, and communities can work together to build a support network. Parents can work together to trade supervision time, organize small work groups so students can work with peers, and grandparents or other relatives may pitch in using technology to safely provide a presence at home. These community networks can be established through religious congregations, PTA organizations, and neighborhood social media groups.
- Students will do better when there is a consistent presence who is staying on top of what they are doing in school. It is going to take a community effort to help one another. This is especially important for our essential workers - helping their families as they help ours.
How can I help my students have more social interaction when they are working on school from home or have limited extra-curricular activities at school?
- Using those same principles of community networking mentioned above, parents can work to establish small activity groups based around peer age and interests.
- In addition, students can help others in their community by becoming a pen pal to seniors in a rest home, providing essential services to homebound or at-risk populations, and other service projects that may help support essential workers.
- Students who are receiving online or face to face instruction may still be eligible to participate in extra-curricular activities at their boundary/member school.
- There are also after school community programs (face to face and virtual) which are still available to families. Some programs specialize in serving specific populations, including essential workers with limited incomes.
As we embark on this educational journey, it is important to have frequent listening sessions with our children. These sessions should consist of parents practicing being still and really focusing in on what your student is experiencing. Your job is to allow them time to talk in order for them to process how they are feeling about current circumstances. Sometimes our students don’t know how they feel unless they are given time to talk and consider what they are feeling. Often times as parents we are more attached and nostalgic for traditional experiences than our students. This is an opportunity to discover what is most important to them. If you listen closely, you will find that they are surprisingly pragmatic, adaptable, and resourceful.
By Chris Richards-Khong
Chris Richards-Khong is affectionately known to her students, parents, and co-workers as CRK. However, her most treasured title is “mom.” As a mother of three children, ranging in age from twenty-four to twelve, she has been on the parent learning curve for some time and feels blessed for the lessons her children continue to teach her. Chris holds a bachelor degree in Theatre Education, a master’s of science in Psychology, and certificates in Educational Leadership and Teaching English as a Second Language. She has served as a teacher, counselor specialist, and high school level principal. She is currently a Secondary Administrator in the Teaching and Learning Department at Jordan School District. Although she misses the daily interaction with students, Chris loves that her current position allows her to create access for all students and create advocacy partnerships with parents. Chris has a passion for helping students learn how to navigate life with confidence and is a true believer in the power of education to transform lives.