Engaging Caregivers as Allies in Virtual Learning




Many of us are well into week eight of virtual learning. Others are sustaining a fully-in-person model with social distancing, or a hybrid somewhere in-between. Still others have begun the semester one way, only to abruptly have to change course.

Sure, we’ve had victories along the way. We’ve faced challenges and have learned valuable lessons. But the thing I hear most often from educators are concerns regarding student engagement–especially in virtual learning.

Educators lament that caregivers are not more supportive in this new style of learning. They can feel overwhelmed by the expectations of them to facilitate student learning, and wonder, “Why do I have to do this? Don’t my tax dollars pay you to do this?” They may even feel a teacher’s role is easier and less time-consuming than before, since classes don’t “last” the entire school day.

Kids Do Well…If They Can

Everyone is stressed…which tends to create blame. Social media, where we can spout out comments in frustration without thinking, doesn’t help. So, let’s all agree to pump the brakes and try a reset.

I’m reminded of the adage “Kids do well if they can,” from the book Lost at School, by Dr. Ross Greene. Children don’t simply want to do well or choose to do well — they need to be enabled to succeed.

If someone is not doing well, it’s because they have an unsolved problem or undeveloped skill that we need to help discover and solve or teach.

What if we thought the same of each other?

Educators Do Well If They Can, Too (and so do Caregivers!)

We’re all doing the best we can with the problems we face and the skills we have. Could this change in mindset shift our perspective, to see each other as allies with the common objective of doing the best we can for kids? Perhaps.

Here are some tips to engage our caregivers as allies, both in the classroom and at home:
  1. Engage your caregiver community. Don’t just information dump. Survey caregivers for their opinions and ideas on what would help to engage their children. You may be an expert in education, but respecting caregivers as experts on their own child goes a long way.
  2. Involve caregiver volunteers. Perhaps a caregiver can be a tutor and hold office hours in the evening, so that you don’t have to.
  3. Create a caregiver virtual community where caregivers can ask each other questions and give & get support. This may even reduce the number of individual communications to the educator.
  4. Streamline your communications home to the essentials whenever possible.
And remember, leaders need support as well. Reach out to your colleagues in other buildings and seek professional support as needed.

We can do this, but only with compassion.

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