Schooling is different for students this fall thanks to hybrid and completely virtual learning. Many parents now find themselves on the front lines of the learning process: in their child’s classroom. If you find yourself concerned about keeping up with your child’s classes and assignments, you are not alone.
We reached out to teachers from across our readership area for their thoughts on hybrid and virtual schooling, keeping up with assignments to avoid falling behind, easing stress on your child, and how to best support him or her as well as sharing insider tips for virtual schooling success. Here are some of our takeaways.
Encourage focus to close any gaps from last spring. While not all students experienced gaps, some patterns have emerged. “I cannot speak for all students, but I would say reading skills were affected,” said Aimee Schwenzer (4th Grade, Dansville Elementary School). David Resseguie (ELA, Brockport Middle School) concurs. “I have definitely noticed lower levels of reading than in previous years,” he said. “Reading stimulates skill growth and the process of learning.” Teachers expected there would be some gaps, and Natalie Cottone (4th, Dansville Elementary School) and Todd Putnam (ELA, Webster Middle School) compared the spring shutdown effect to that of a longer “summer slide.” Our Takeaway: Read, read, read…independently and together!
Re-establish expectation of learning. “Students have had to relearn being a learner,” explained Schwenzer. Setting learning expectations may take a little longer this year. “Kids are struggling to get back into the routines we had when we were full time,” said Lisa Tubinis (8th Grade Science, Holley Middle School), citing fewer weekly days in the classroom. “Most students got out of routine, even of just getting up in the morning,” added Patricia McGrath (10th, 11th & 12th Grade Special Education, Fairport High School) before adding a positive. “Students who were able to come in person have been so excited to be back. They appreciate being in school with teachers, staff, friends and connections.” Our Takeaway: Set clear learning expectations with your child.
Avoid the procrastination snowball. Each subject, concept, and grade are spiraled, building upon each other. Missing critical class content creates gaps which, if unrecognized, can create major problems as students continue. Incomplete assignments can quickly add up, sinking a student’s grades. “If students leave all their assignments until Friday, they typically shut down,” explained Tubinis. Natalie concurs, adding that not keeping up frequently creates a “snowball effect,” making it difficult for a student to get caught up later.
Importantly, students’ mindset may need to shift from spring to fall. “Things were up in the air in the spring,” Putnam recalled. “Now, this is part of their learning, not just review or trying something out. Missing assignments affect students grades wise, where it may not have as much last spring.” Our Takeaway: Complete classwork assignment by assignment, lesson by lesson, day by day.
Establish a time and place to complete each week’s assignments. Routine: With so much learning currently taking place at home, children are expected to organize their work, have good time management, and schedule their weeks. “We are expecting kids to manage these things at a grown-up level,” Schwenzer observed. “It’s challenging.” Putnam agrees. “When I was 12, I would have been over my head,” he said. “A lot of these time management and planning skills come from experience over time.”
Yu, Resseguie, and Jenna Murgillo (5th Grade) of Brockport Middle School remind us that young people thrive with routine and structure, encouraging parents to work with their children to create a schedule and to post it where it’s very visible. Putnam adds that most children won’t have solid answers when it comes to time management, giving parents a great opportunity to step in and support them in creating a routine that works for them.
Importantly, McGrath reminds us that this is such a stressful time for kids, and giving them routines, structure, and expectations can help ease that stress while encouraging them to thrive. “Help them know what to expect in a time that is so unpredictable,” she advised. “Give yourself grace and forgive yourself if you make a mistake.” Our Takeaway: Create an effective weekly plan with your child.
Environment: Create a quiet spaces with few distractions. “You know your child best,” said Schwenzer. “Modify and change the space so it’s more accessible to them. Limit distractions and distraction opportunities.” Putnam adds that a quiet space, without a TV and other electronics, would be ideal. Our Takeaway: Minimize both noise and distractions.
Communication: This has been virtual learning’s bright spot. Yu, Resseguie and Murgillo have noted higher levels of parent communication as has Cottone. “Constant communication is so important right now,” she shared. “We are communicating almost in real time.”
“This experience is helping our kids be tech savvy,” added Schwenzer. Cottone agreed, adding, “The biggest difference between the spring and fall is the fact that students are much more computer savvy, and I am, too!” Yu, Resseguie and Murgillo concurred. “We should see a very tech savvy group coming through.”
Tubinis encouraged parents to use the technology to make sure children are completing their remote assignments. “Check their grades often,” she encouraged. “If you catch missing assignments as they happen, it will be much easier for your kids to make them up than at the 5 or 10 week mark.” Our Takeaway: Keep lines of communication open, check grades, and ask questions.
As we navigate hybrid and virtual learning throughout the 2020-2021 school year, McGrath and Cottone remind us that this is just temporary. Tubinis echoed this, sharing, “We want kids to have a successful year. We are all working towards the same goal. None of us is alone.”