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Howdy Partner: Parent/Teacher Partnerships and Making the Most of These Difficult Times

By Brandy Browne

Ready to throw your hands in the air or bang your head against a wall after months and months of mostly virtual learning? You are not alone! AJ Williamham (2020), reporter from CNN, reports on the many challenges parents are facing with distance learning, including being overwhelmed with platforms to access information, technology issues, and trying to juggle assignments for multiple children. “Keeping my nine-year-old on task has been the biggest challenge,” says Sareh Baca, a portfolio manager from Atlanta. “I get her set up and then jump on a meeting, and about 75% of the time when I go back to check on her she’s watching YouTube or playing video games. I’ve had to solicit her older sister to help but that doesn’t always end well, and she has her own work to do” (retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/08/us/distance-learning-problems-parents-trnd/index.html). In these frustrating times, it is easy to turn your frustration towards teachers and schools. However, I am proposing a different solution.

Background on me, for a moment. I am a teacher in my thirteenth year of working with elementary aged and early childhood aged children. Before last year, I had no idea how to work online curriculum or do much of anything besides utilize SeeSaw to communicate with parents and send pictures of their child’s work to them. Not only was I learning how to utilize online learning as a teacher, I was going back to graduate school myself, and my classes were all online. Then, the pandemic hit, and I added juggling the schoolwork of my three children (ages 5, 7, and 10…hardly independent) to the mix. When I say that I understand and relate to the frustration many parents are expressing, I really do! I am right there in the trenches with you every single day!

However, I have a unique perspective as well. I have watched my colleagues spend countless hours figuring out how to adapt their curriculum for young learners. I have listened to never ending discussions on how to make learning as engaging as possible without overwhelming parents. I have seen the tears of my friends as the tone on social media and in our communities turns increasingly negative. I have sat with friends as they made hard choices over which family to serve…their school and student family or their own. This pandemic has not been easy on anyone. 

Teachers want to support you during this time, but they need your support as well. How much could our children accomplish if we were working with each other, rather than against each other? What if we could walk out of this pandemic so much richer in experiences and relationships than when we walked in? I believe that is actually possible. However, it will definitely take working together. Try these strategies for enhancing the teacher family partnership.

4 Ways to Build the Parent/Teacher Partnership

  1. Carefully monitor your own attitudes about learning and education. This definitely goes both ways. Teachers cannot complain about the families they are serving and expect to have strong partnerships with them. Parents cannot constantly complain about how their child’s teacher is managing virtual learning in a pandemic with little to no training, and then expect said teacher to happily answer your email at any given moment of the day. Support each other! Children will be unstoppable with a large support system rallied around them. 
  2. Designate “quiet spaces” for students to learn from (and for teachers to record lessons from). This is hard. We are all busy. However, how focused can your child really be going down the road in the car with the radio going and siblings conversing? They need a quiet spot to work. Likewise, when I work from home, I require a quiet space to record lessons from and do live meetings on. A few interruptions are normal, but having a work zone in your home will greatly enhance productivity. 
  3. Manage expectations…do not expect your child’s teacher to be able to be at your beck and call every waking moment. He or she likely has a family that needs assistance with virtual schooling as well. GIve grace. Assume the best. Teachers will likely extend grace in return when a little extra time or support is needed to complete an assignment. 
  4. Praise each other publicly. Parents, do not get caught up in the online rabbit hole of parent groups complaining about how terrible these times are. Your experience is driven by your attitude towards your circumstances. Teachers, try not to read the comments on every teacher bashing post you come across, and instead focus on the relationship that you have with the families you work with. That is much more important, though this is difficult to do!

Final Thoughts

Few things are as important to your child’s educational experiences than the partnership between schools and the families they serve. In these unprecedented times, that relationship is more important than ever. 

Sources

Willingham, A. (2020). Parent’s biggest frustration with distance learning. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/08/us/distance-learning-problems-parents-trnd/index.html

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