By Hailey Jordan, CEI Intern
Many schools across the world closed this spring in order to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. School and government leaders are still pondering whether or not it will be safe to reopen in the fall. According to UNESCO (2020), recent school closures impacted nearly 60% of the world’s student population. As a way to continue students’ education, many school districts in the United States aided parents’ and kids’ transition from in-person to remote learning. This major change opened the door for educators and families to work together in new ways. From online classes to study packets delivered by mail, children were able to learn outside of the school building because of this unique parent-teacher relationship.
Schools Ensure Students and Families have Access to Educational Resources
During the global pandemic, parents and educators used online platforms to not only stay connected, but also make learning outside the classroom fun and engaging for children. For instance, the Kansas City Public School (KCPS) district created At-Home Task Calendars for students of all grade levels. These online resources served as extra review guides of different subjects, from math to reading and more. They were updated weekly to help families stay on track with their children’s education. KCPS sent paper-based learning materials to all homes to make sure that students and parents have access to the same resources, even when the family did not have internet service (Govtech, 2020). Other school districts in the country made it a priority to give laptops to each child and provide WiFi at no cost to families (Digital Promise, 2020).
Connecting Families to Digital Tools for Students’ Social-Emotional Development and Academic Success
Parents and teachers used flexibility and understanding to navigate the ups and downs of at-home learning. Due to nationwide school closures, the normal 8-hour school day was altered for educators, families, and, most importantly, students. Teachers recorded their lessons to give children and parents the opportunity to access educational content on their own time (Govtech, 2020). This was helpful for those with schedules that no longer matched up with regular school hours. Educators also connected parents with research-based digital tools that support children’s social and emotional development—like online trauma-informed SEL program Respectful Ways, in addition to academic success (Digital Promise, 2020). Families were able to watch videos online to understand how strategies are used in the classroom and then practice them with their children at home.
Parent Engagement and Family-Teacher Communication during School Closures
Educators provided parents with a wealth of valuable information. This helped families play an active role in their child’s academic and social-emotional growth. According to a nationwide survey of 3,645 parents and guardians, the majority (67%) felt more connected to their child’s day-to-day education since the transition to remote learning. Responses also reveal that 90% of families used resources provided by teachers to help their kids learn at home (Learning Heroes, 2020). Based on survey data, parents were more aware of their child’s social-emotional well-being and how they were performing in their studies.
Teachers can provide accessible resources to parents and keep conversations going about student progress, especially during school closures. When families and teachers communicate, there is a boost in student engagement (Kraft & Doughtery, 2013). This is made possible through:
Solid relationships between educators and students
More parental involvement
Increased student motivation
If students are engaged with their studies, they are more likely to have greater educational success.
At-home learning represents an opportunity for teachers and parents to strengthen their relationship with one another. Educators and families can work as a team to provide children enough support to continue their education during this unprecedented time. As schools remain closed to flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases, it is important for teachers and parents to stay connected and aware of children’s social-emotional and academic needs. There are many ways to keep young minds learning and engaged outside of the four walls of a classroom (i.e. at-home task calendars, interactive digital tools). The recent actions of school districts, educators and families across the country show that collaboration is possible in the fall and the years to come.
Kraft, M. A. & Doughtery, S. M. (2013). The effect of teacher-family communication on student engagement: evidence from a randomized field experiment. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness. 6(3): 199-222
Learning Heroes. (2020). Parents 2020 | COVID-19 closures: a redefining moment for students, parents and schools. Learning Heroes. Pape, B. & Lopez-Aflitto, W. (2020, March 24). Responding to COVID-19: How are the children?. Digital Promise.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (2020). Education: From disruption to recovery. UNESCO.
Williams, M. & Ritter S. (2020, March 31). Parents, teachers make education work during pandemic. Government Technology.