Did the world just stop….or is it going at a speed you’ve never imagined possible? As we navigate this very surreal time in our history, we are wading into situations and making decisions that have never even been thought of. We have all had the familiar ripped out from under us and we’re being asked to do something we have no idea how to do! And if that’s true for us as teachers, it’s doubly true for students and parents.
Students need an anchor during this time, and that anchor needs to be something recognizable, something they know how to do, and something that can give them a feeling of success. Its key component has got to be communication that makes both children and parents feel connected, supported, and valued.
Some teachers I’ve spoken with are feeling resentful that this has been put upon them. And if WE’RE feeling that way, just imagine the feelings of the parent who has lost both her jobs, has no income and now is being told she must be the teacher! Our most important job at this point is to be a coach, a cheerleader, a leader, and a listener.
There are 5 key strategies that will help both students and parents to feel connected during this time.
- Phone call to every student,which includes talking with the parent.
Students must know that you’re thinking of them and you’re concerned about their feelings during this time. If you have sent home packets of work, let them know why. This is so the students won’t fall backwards and will keep them up to where they were when they left school. If you serve upper grade students that have email, let them know ahead of time you will be calling and give them an agenda of somethings to talk about. It’s not all about “the work”, but much more importantly, processing some feelings about what’s happening, and keeping them engaged in the importance of the learning process. How can we continue to move forward? In talking with parents, hear their concerns and give them the empathy they deserve. They are feeling overwhelmed, and afraid they’re not up to the task. Assure them you are still on the job and want to help, including referring them to another county service if necessary.
2. Find a way the child can still creatively contribute to the classroom.
It’s so important that students feel that they are still a part of a caring group that is familiar to them. Set up a facebook page, and feature activities that students are doing. Examples: send a picture of a video of yourself reading a book, learning a new game with your sibling, playing outside for P.E. time, researching a new subject, making a video, telling what your special act of kindness has been that day, writing a letter to your grandma, etc.
3. Make a video of you doing a classroom activity.
For younger children, the perfect activity is storytime. Tell the children to get a blanket and curl up on the couch while you read a story to them. Read just as though you were in the classroom, making a comment here and there, asking for a prediction, and putting in the animation you always do. This is something the little ones (and parents) will treasure as it provides a sense of “familiar”. If you’ve been reading a chapter book each day in the classroom for middle elementary or junior high students, continue with that. This is a time in the day that children looked forward to and it was a time to relax and unwind a bit. Let them know we can still continue with some of the routines we know.
4. Let students and parents know the parts of the routine that don’t have to change.
Most teachers established a routine in their classroom, perhaps even displaying it on the board so students would know what time different activities would happen. Share this school schedule with parents. For example, if your students are used to writing in their journal for 15 minutes as they come into the room, that’s how they start the morning. Does the pledge of allegiance come next? Why stop? One of the hardest things for parents to contend with is “the schedule” and being consistent. Remind children of the routine at school and share it with parents. Help parents adapt it for home, but stick as closely to what students are used to as you can.
If students are used to having a “fun Friday”, that’s something they could enjoy at home as well. Allow them to choose an activity to do on their own or to choose a topic they want to know more about. Maybe that’s the time to zoom with friends and do something online together. Be creative and flexible with this.
5. Continue to be positive and focused in a forward moving direction.
As has been said so often, “We WILL get through this.” And when we have, I’m convinced we’ll be able to look back and specify all the things we learned through this challenge. Both students and parents need hope. When they lose theirs, we become the merchants of hope for them . This is our time to step into the gap and be the listener, the encourager, the leader, and the partner our students and parents need.