Last week on our blog, we discussed the new challenges COVID-19 has placed on school leaders as we enter the back-to-school season. Normally, school leaders can send out a simple back-to-school letter welcoming families back to the classroom, with concise guidelines and tips for academic success. This year, however, we must provide a more robust “Back to School Toolkit” to help families understand new requirements to keep students and teachers safe.
Last week, we posted the first three steps for creating your Back to School Toolkit for families. Here are the final steps:
4. Explain how to create a home study space for distance learning.
If distance learning is a new concept for families, they may need advice for setting up a designated study space for students at home. Researchers suggest that the ideal study spot includes:
- Open space — Small, enclosed spaces can increase stress levels, so parents should try to set up their student’s study spot in an open area. If this isn’t possible, adding mirrors to the walls can help create the illusion of more space.
- Comfortable seating — If possible, parents should choose an ergonomic chair which can be raised or lowered to the appropriate level for students to write or type at their desk without having to slouch.
- Plenty of natural light — Students are more attentive and healthier when they study in areas with lots of natural light. If students must study in a room without much sunlight, parents should install lightbulbs which mimic the warmth of natural light.
- Changes in scenery — Neuroscientist Michael Posner explains that “the brain likes novelty, new things”. Parents and students can work together to decorate their study space with fun, bright posters relevant to their current topics of study, and should change these posters on a regular basis to keep the brain engaged.
5. Share advice for parents who aren’t sure how to support their child’s distance learning.
Many parents have expressed that they feel like they’re homeschooling their kids through distance learning, and that they feel ill-equipped to properly support their students. Be sure to let parents know about resources available to them when their children need academic help. For example:
- Explain how and when students can receive one-on-one support from their teachers during distance learning.
- Share contact information for teachers and other resources available through your school to provide targeted supports for students. Don’t forget to include information about supports for students with learning disabilities and other special needs.
- Let parents know about local learning resources outside your school, such as tutoring hotlines and chatrooms. Homework Hotline in Tennessee, Harvey Mudd College’s Homework Hotline in Los Angeles, and AskRose Homework Help in Indiana are examples of free remote tutoring services which support local students.
6. Let parents know how to help children practice healthy habits to support their students’ physical, mental, and emotional wellness.
Remind parents that the novel coronavirus can be confusing and even scary for children—including older children! Here are some tips you can offer:
- Have students practice good mask wearing, hand washing, and sanitizing at home. Give examples of how to build these habits and reinforce them when families go to other places. For instance, parents can encourage the habit of putting on a mask each time their family leaves the house. Parents can practice hand sanitizing with their children every time they leave a public place, such as the grocery store.
- Explain and practice social distancing outside of school. Parents can show students how to social distance by spreading their arms out wide and explaining that students should stay two arms’ lengths away from others in public spaces and at school.
- Put extra hand sanitizer and masks in students’ backpacks before they go to school. Schools will have limited resources, and students should be prepared in case they run out of sanitizer or their mask gets dirty, wet, or misplaced.
- Check students’ symptoms at home. Parents need to know how to check symptoms at home and decide whether their students can safely go to school. The CDC offers a Self-Checker tool on their website to help.
- Help students regularly check in with their feelings and emotions. It’s natural for anyone to feel isolated, sad, frustrated, and other negative emotions during big life changes, and children may not have the self-regulation skills to navigate these feelings on their own. For younger children, it may be helpful to print or make a chart to help them identify and process their emotions. Encourage parents to talk about feelings with their kids so they can learn how to constructively use their emotions.
7. Set expectations for how parents can communicate with your school.
Share important dates for parents to put on their calendar, such as parent curriculum nights and parent-teacher conferences. Let them know when to expect updates about their student’s learning progress and any new safety/health updates. Offer new, creative opportunities for parents to volunteer to support your teachers and school. Finally, provide contact information for the appropriate person at your school whom parents can contact if needed.
Get ongoing professional development support during these strange, new times.
Parents aren’t the only ones who need support this fall! Teachers, administrators, and other school team members will need ongoing professional development to successfully navigate this new learning environment.
At the Center for Student Achievement Solutions, we provide support customized for your school or district, including:
- Training on how to teach effectively in a virtual classroom
- Strategies for supporting all students, including traditionally underserved populations and students at risk for falling behind
- Coaching for school leaders who want to motivate their teachers
- And more professional development solutions
Schedule a free call with one of our expert consultants to discuss professional development strategies which could help your learning community.