You may soon be back to distance learning, but it will be different than the quick transition in March when attendance was not mandatory and assignments weren’t graded.
Now, the state is requiring attendance reporting, administrators have had a chance to make plans and teachers have learned how to use online tools. While it may be virtual, it is back to school and time for the new school year.
Here are some tips to help your student get off to a good start:
• Set a Schedule
Teachers will be holding live online sessions, providing recordings that your student can access anytime, and assigning work that needs to be completed independently and submitted to the online course. Based on the online sessions, develop a daily and weekly schedule following as much of a typical bell schedule as possible. Include breaks to walk the dog, call a friend, have a snack, or whatever else will help your student avoid screen fatigue. Make sure your student uses the recordings, as they are uninterrupted direct instruction, may include important announcements and often cover the most important topics (and test items).
Also, large assignments and projects can sneak up on the calendar, so look ahead when reviewing the weekly plan. Also, schedule a time for you to check your student’s progress daily. If it is on the schedule and part of the plan, it will feel less like you are breathing down your student’s neck.
• Give Them Space
As much as possible, help your student set up a comfortable, dedicated study space where they can set up their computer and store books, binders and supplies. Consider using your dining room or setting up a card table in the den. Resist the initial urge to use a desk in your child’s bedroom. Being in common areas will help your student to not feel stuck by himself in his bedroom all day, and it is easier for you to supervise. Take some time to plan out the area to make it personal and comfortable displaying pictures, drawings or projects. If possible, designate space outside where your student can read or work to vary his work environment and provide an opportunity for fresh air.
• Get Binders and Take Notes
Without a teacher watching in person, students can become lax during live sessions and tend to want to click through online lessons or just sit and listen. If they were in class, they would be actively taking notes. Remind them that live and recorded sessions are their class time and make sure your student takes notes. Also, create a folder for each subject on their computer desktop to help them quickly save and retrieve assignments.
• You got a teacher
Your school should be providing a teacher and a curriculum. Unless you have young elementary students who require hand holding, your role as parent should be as a coach or guide. Your responsibility is checking that your child is logging in and turning in work. If you are comfortable with tutoring, great! If not, ask the teacher for support options. Consider how you can reach out to the teacher and show support–this is new for teachers, too. It’s impressive how hard they are trying and how quickly they are adapting, but they don’t have the class mom or colleagues by their side, either.
• Help Group
Start a text, Skype or chat group with parents of your child’s classmates and use it to help each other stay on track and answer questions. Someone in the group is likely to know how to access an assignment or when a lesson is due and it may be easier to get an answer from a peer than wait for the teacher, especially outside of school hours. Just one note: Establish the standard that the group is there as a class “help desk” and not a place to promote personal agendas or gripe.
• Pause, Be Positive and See the Benefits
Yup, accept that things are different for now. It takes longer to get things done; not everything is available. We’re all in this together and we will get through it! Reach out to your student’s teacher and show support. If you or your student feel frustrated with tech issues, take a pause, a deep breath and a break. Stay positive and recognize that while this is not the same back to school, your student is fully capable of progressing in classes online and will also enhance their tech abilities and improve organizational and time management skills.
Dave Meyers, ED.D., is a business executive turned educator, a math teacher for an online high school and writes the onlineteachertoolkit.com blog and a contributing writer to KIDDISH Magazine.