The 2020/2021 school year is upon us. And this year, it’s going to be unlike any other year known to education.
The Covid-19 pandemic has rendered most school buildings useless, meaning that students across the country are back at home and engaging with their school education remotely. This includes Chicago Public Schools, who had initially decided on a hybrid model but had to backtrack after major backlash from teachers and parents.
If you’re a parent and you’re terrified, you are not alone! You’re probably already busy enough with worklife, keeping your home clean, maintaining safe pandemic practices and a slew of other everyday chores that eat up your day. And now you have the added responsibility of ensuring that your child is engaging with their remote learning and still achieving those ever-important grades.
But it doesn’t have to be a worrisome challenge. And it shouldn’t be. Our team spoke with a number of teachers and parents, and we’ve come up with a simple guide that will help you track your child’s school year, while still having a life!
Here are 3 simple things you can do to make sure that your child is getting the most of their Remote Learning this school year:
1. Be there for them.
This is the core of it all. There is nothing more influential in a child’s life than the expectations of their parent/caregiver. They crave the approval of their parent because they’re the primary figures in the child’s life. And nowhere is this more true than in your child’s school career. Parent and veteran public school teacher of more than 30 years, Yolanda Hammond, says “Parents should rest assured that their child is receiving the best possible education under the current circumstances. Teachers are well-versed in their subjects and have the ability to present engaging lessons online.”
School students, whether they be elementary or high school, are still undergoing the long process of learning the importance of goal-setting and self-motivation. While the teacher is usually there to guide them through that process, Remote Learning means that role is displaced onto the student’s parent. So the best thing you can do for your child is to aid them in that process and to show interest in their learning. This does not have to be a long-winded or complicated procedure. School kids are highly intuitive. They register the smallest gestures and appreciate the subtlest of efforts (even if they may not always show it!).
Social Sciences teacher Sara Holic says “When a student appears distracted or unmotivated, I bargain with them for a reward. Teenagers, in particular, respond well to bargaining. Having their input count appeals to them. They are constantly seeking independence and like the idea of being in control of their circumstances.” Research has documented this approach for years. A 2006 case study showed that “teachers frequently use extrinsic motivation like rewards, praise, free time, food and even punishment to encourage and stimulate their students towards learning.” (Krause, Bochner and Duchesne 2006)
Depending on your child’s personality and age, the reward may be something as simple as TV time or as grand as buying them the latest Nike shoes. Nobody knows your child better than you. You know what they respond best to. Once you set those academic expectations and stick with them, you can sit back and watch your child develop their own routine.
2. Put the onus on your child!
This cannot be stressed enough. Although you set the expectations, your child’s learning is their responsibility. Remind them that they are learning for nobody else but themselves. The skills and knowledge that they acquire from their Remote Learning are their own rewards and students should be as self-driven as possible to achieve those rewards. Mathematics teacher, Kevin Mendoza, says that “Students need to be aware that, especially during Remote Learning, nobody is responsible for their learning but themselves. Everything from grades to deadlines to class attendance to extracurricular activities, it is up to students to manage themselves effectively because they are the ones who are reaping their rewards or suffering their consequences.” The regular teacher’s absence means that most of that drive needs to come solely from the student.
This is crucial in helping your child achieve at their best. Research has consistently shown that self-motivated students perform better than those who are externally motivated. “Intrinsically motivated students have higher achievement levels, lower levels of anxiety and higher perceptions of competence and engagement in learning than students who are not intrinsically motivated” (Wigfield & Eccles, 2002; Wigfield & Waguer, 2005).
But don’t stress! Each child develops their “intrinsic motivation” at a different pace. The best thing you can do for them is to remind them that you trust them and to maintain positive reinforcement, and they will slowly but surely perfect the art of self-motivation until it becomes discipline. It may be tempting to ‘helicopter’ them, and in such a competitive age nobody would blame you! But remember: the world will not be there to motivate them when they’re ‘out in the real world’. Your child deserves to be self-driven and ambitious. They deserve to look at their achievements and take full credit for it.
3. Communicate with your child’s teachers.
Not ‘admin’ and not the ‘district’. The teachers. Remember: Your child’s teachers want to hear from you. They invest all their abilities into your child’s success and well-being, so don’t underestimate the insight they can provide you. Remote Learning means that your child’s teachers have less access to them. They are unable to address students’ social and emotional needs as effectively as they can under normal circumstances. Couple that with strict security teacher-student regulations, and it means that the parent might be the only person who can bridge that gap.
Again, this is much easier than it sounds. Most schools will be implementing mentor protocols this school year, meaning that they will take an active role in reaching out to you. Teachers and counselors have received training around communicating with families and communities during the pandemic, so make the most of it! Chicago Public Schools English teacher, Annie Munz, advises that “students should always reach out to the teacher first because it’s their responsibility. They should take ownership of their own communications.”. However, Munz also suggests that “Parents should not feel hesitant to reach out either, especially regarding a specific challenge that their child might be facing.”
A 2012 research conducted by Harvard University revealed that a stronger parent-teacher relationship improves the motivation of students both intrinsically as well as extrinsically. It’s not simply just about “more eyes” on the student. It’s also about the kind of ‘well-rounded’ communication that creates a more nurturing environment for students. Children respond to their schoolwork better when they know that the people in their lives are ‘on their side’. It’s not different from running a marathon. Strong communication between teachers and parents gives your child the morale boost that they need to motivate themselves and achieve the success they desire.
The Bottom Line
Remote Learning is all about consistency. It’s about simulating the nurturing environment of the classroom as best as we can for our children. And until the pandemic subsides, it’s going to take all of us. As a parent, the greatest gift you can give your child is care. Giving them the motivational push and celebrating their successes with them makes all the difference. And if it all gets too much, then never hesitate to seek help from their teachers!