• SaY India

"Say": During Remote Learning, parents need to become co-teachers

When schools closed across India in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, the school building became virtual, and the home became the classroom.


Educators were suddenly depending on technology to get ideas and skills across to their students. But for schools the real key to success and reaching our students turned out to be the new healthy relationship they developed with parents.


Before the pandemic, the school building was where students were expected to learn the language of school. And though the emphasis was on the importance of parent involvement, parents were typically informed about their child’s progress in the traditional ways — E-mails, newsletters, progress reports, report cards, and parent-teacher conferences.


Parents are very busy, and many work several jobs. Schools work hard to flexibly respond to parents’ schedules, meeting with parents before school, during lunch and after school, for example. But usually they struggl to foster a strong bond between school and home.


The pandemic has brought about the need to change everything. When the lockdown started, parents of children in early grades were right next to their children as they participated in lessons. As the children learned, parents were there to fix technology issues, clarify assignments, and answer questions.


After teachers logged off, the parents were there to urge, encourage, and cajole their young scholars. Parents were there asking students to persuade and convince; asking to add more details to their writing; asking them to look at their checklists. Parents were there asking students to compose and decompose, about number bonds and assessments. And they were doing it all while friends, family, and neighbors were suffering with the coronavirus.


It was an emotional experience for everyone. Educators, parents and students were getting to know each other in a different way.


So much of this academic interaction had been happening before the pandemic, too, but it had been invisible to teachers because they have been working in separate spheres.


Seeing parents using academic language in the home — sometimes in Marathi, Bengali, or Hindi as well as English — we have been underestimating parents’ potential to be real partners.


Teachers, Parents and Children all made adjustments. When some students turned in work that was more polished than usual, some thought that parents were doing the work for students. But, of course, any time students have one-on-one support their work will look very different than when 24 students are sharing the attention of one teacher. So the work being more polished is a natural result of the different context.


Teachers started to realize that the work was actually improving because of the parents’ commitment to supporting their children in this arena. And these concerns opened a conversation between teachers and parents about education being a process, not a polished product.


This experience has been a lesson for educators and parents alike. Schools usually talk about meeting students where they are, academically and emotionally, by building on their strengths and assets. But usually they don’t focus enough on families, one of students’ biggest assets! This pandemic has changed that.


When parents go back to work and students go back to a new school year, this partnership must carry on. Teacher should be sharing more of their professional knowledge and experience with parents and hold meetings with them before the start of the academic year to involve them as equal partners.


Schools should also make time to survey parents about what they need from them. Some communities may need more help closing the digital divide, while others will want more information about curriculum or strategies to help students gain independence.


This relationship can also go in a different direction, with teachers learning from families and families learning from one another. Schools must find ways to allow parents to showcase their best practices from home so teachers can learn what the learning process looks like in a different context and plan accordingly, especially for teaching students with disabilities.


Next academic year might be another year of interruptions and hardship. No matter what happens, the goal of schools must be to welcome parents more fully into the world of education, giving them more tools to navigate that uncertainty with confidence.


Hopefully schools, teacher, and parents can forge a long-lasting partnership for the benefit of students in the long term.


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