5 Ways to Support Parents During Emergency Distance Learning

A quick Google search or Twitter search turns up 1,000’s of hits on how to support teachers during emergency distance learning, how to support students during emergency distance learning, how parents can support their children during emergency distance learning, and the list goes on. That is not going to be the focus of this post. There are a few out there, but an overlooked area is how schools, teachers, and administrators can support parents during distance learning. That is going to be the focus of this post. It is our responsibility to serve our parents in any way possible. We want to foster learning and build a positive bridge between school & community. The last thing we want to do is add to their stress.
Parents have been put in an almost impossible situation. All of a sudden they have been thrust into a role that many of us never envisioned. Their children are now at home and, with little direction, parents are being expected to provide an appropriate learning environment for their children. This includes an appropriate workspace without distractions, internet access, a computer (or device), time-management assistance, and in many cases the ability and willingness to take on the role of teacher. This, of course must all be done while, if they are lucky, they work full-time to provide for their family.  
I will go ahead and get this out there right now: PARENTS YOU ARE DOING AN AMAZING JOB, YOU GUYS ARE ROCKING IT! From every teacher/administrator, in every school, in every state, in every country, thank you from the bottom of our hearts! We love your child and we desperately care about their success. Thank you so much for everything you are doing!
Now we are going to move on to the main event and what you have all been waiting for: 5 ways to support parents during emergency distance learning.
Communicate, communicate, communicate. We are indoctrinated on the importance of communication constantly during business as “normal”. The importance of communication goes up exponentially during emergency distance learning. We should continue to use our existing channels of communication. These could include Seesaw, Class Dojo, Remind, Google Classroom, Zoom, email, text, phone, etc. Parents and students alike are going to need a tremendous amount of support during this time period. Open lines of communication are vital in supporting parents. They will have questions, we need to be available to provide answers. Make sure to respect your own time, but be available to offer assistance. If anything, OVER communicate with parents! There are going to hiccups and times where we mess up! Communicate that to parents.  Remember, if a parent is reaching out to you that is a huge positive! Even if it seems trivial, or frustrating, make sure to address the parent in a positive manner. Rejoice that your student has someone that is working closely enough with them to reach out to you!
Lighten the Load
Locally and in districts worldwide, many were guilty of trying to transfer their typically scope and sequence to distance learning. This is IMPOSSIBLE. Imagine being a parent. You go to work for a 10-12 hour shift to return home at 7:00pm to find that you now have 6 hours of schoolwork to help your 4 children with. This is not only not going to get done, but it is also going to alienate that family from the school. There is such a thing as too much. There are many, many guidelines posted for appropriate amounts of school-time while at home. We didn’t exactly follow those locally. Here is what we shoot for, and it seems to be working well. 
PreK-1st Grade- Around 1 hour
2nd-3rd Grade-Around 1.5 hours
4th-5th Grade- Around 2 hours
6th-12th Grade- Around 20-30 minutes per course
Most of our parents are GREAT parents, a select few have teaching experience, and even a smaller percentage are experts in the content/grade-level of their children. Keep this in mind when designing instruction. The assignment doesn’t need to be “some assembly required” like my IKEA furniture. Every activity needs to be explicitly laid out, without the need for extra materials and a master’s degree in education to figure out. Make sure to provide simple instructions and tasks. If it is complicated content, be sure to provide videos or handouts that explain EVERYTHING, not using complicated jargon. Be mindful that every student will have different levels of support. Simplicity is key. It is vital to design distance learning experiences that have very clear instructions.
Incorporate SEL/Life Skills
Assignments based on life skills and SEL are great ways to make sure that our students are learning while providing an opportunity to help foster family time and connections.  Remind parents that doing chores are meaningful, real-world learning experiences. You can help out by creating a project around this concept! Families might cook or bake together this is teaching valuable skills, maybe some math, and providing family time/memories. SEL is so important during crises. Provide parents with activities to foster these skills! There are numerous ways that parents already reinforce CASEL’s core SEL competencies of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
In my opinion, this is the best possible way we can support parents during this crazy time! We must extend grace to our parents, teachers, and students. Most of our parents are doing their very best. Make sure to let your parents know that if school is a struggle for the day or things aren’t going correctly, step back, have some family time, and the schoolwork will still be there tomorrow! We also make sure to have very, very fluid “deadlines”. If parents and students are trying, we need to be more than accomodating. Grace will go a long way in building a positive bridge between parents and the school. 


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