How Teachers and Parents Can Be Better Allies - Digital Promise

How Teachers and Parents Can Be Better Allies

Three female math teachers collaborate

October 14, 2020 | By

Digital Promise and Learning Heroes have teamed up for a special blog series that explores how teachers and families can use technology to work together and facilitate learning for students of all ages. The series centers on the experiences of teachers and parents and provides family-focused tips and resources to support children’s academic progress, social-emotional development, and overall well-being. Read the first post in the series here.

Given the many digital learning and hybrid learning models that will be used this year, partnerships between teachers and parents, families, and caregivers are more important than ever to ensure student success. A national parent survey conducted by Learning Heroes during the spring school closures revealed actionable insights:

  • A majority of parents felt more connected to their child’s daily education and, as a result, want to be more engaged moving forward. Parents want a better understanding of what their child is expected to learn and how they are achieving academically.
  • At the same time, 92 percent of parents, regardless of race, education, or income level, believe their child is performing at or above grade level. This is in stark contrast to the NAEP data, which show that just over a third of students nationally perform grade-level work in reading and math.
  • The disconnect between how parents perceive their child’s performance and the reality must be addressed for parents to most effectively support learning at home.

As a result of school closures last spring, many students may not be fully prepared for grade-level work in this new school year. Teachers and parents need a shared understanding of where students are academically at the start of the year so they can work together to ensure students stay on track.

Here are three strategies and resources to help teachers build strong and effective partnerships with families:

1. Build trust and strengthen relationships

  • Engage with every parent through a welcoming phone call or virtual session during the first weeks of school. As much as possible, don’t just rely on an email or robocall. You can use this “get to know you” call to:
    • Welcome the child and parent to your class and ask each parent what their hopes and dreams are for their child.
    • Ask parents for their expertise on their child (e.g., share their child’s interests, hobbies, etc.).
    • Acknowledge that families are balancing a lot between work and new school models and let them know you are here to help. Be mindful that parents might be relying on older children or extended family to help younger children with distance learning.
    • Ask parents about the best way to be in touch with them and confirm when/how you will stay in regular communication. Discuss any concrete expectations related to this.
  • Consider meeting with families in groups through a biweekly (or monthly) virtual town hall to welcome families, share information updates, and help families to connect with one another.

2. Share information about learning and progress

  • Have individual virtual meetings or phone calls to create a learning plan with each family. For example, use this Parent-Teacher Planning Tool to co-create a learning plan based on a shared understanding of student achievement. This “how to” resource shows how to integrate the planning tool into your existing work with parents.
  • Address parent questions—even the tough ones. This discussion guide provides talking points on how to handle parent questions. Brainstorm and share ideas with your grade level teams/colleagues on how to share data with parents.
  • Connect parents to outside resources (e.g., community organizations that offer tutoring, social/emotional support, or basic resources like food) so they are aware of the help available and can leverage it.
    • Create video tutorials that show parents how to monitor their child’s progress—how to log in to the parent portal, what data to look for, and how to recognize issues of concern.
    • Avoid using “education jargon” in parent communications. For example, instead of “student growth,” say “student progress.” Try using this Developing Life Skills: Communication Roadmap to help break down social-emotional/life skills for parents.

3. Help parents use learning resources

  • Connect with parents one-on-one and do demonstrations. If parents are struggling with technology, ask leadership for support on finding safe ways to meet with parents in person to demonstrate a new skill (e.g., host technology sessions outdoors in the school parking lot).
  • Clearly communicate the one to three things you want families to do. For example, “help your child log in on time, be ready for the planned lessons, and follow up to make sure they are doing the assignments after the lesson.”
  • Host “Parent Academy” virtual sessions one or two times each month to teach families how to use the resources you provide. Use these sessions to provide families with multiple opportunities to practice and receive feedback about the new skill.
  • Invite families to post videos of themselves successfully practicing skills at home with their child. Consider a celebratory “badging” or recognition for those that share videos to build a sense of community among parents.
  • Establish virtual family support groups so families can share ideas, questions, and celebrate when they are being successful at home supporting student learning.

For more tips and resources, sign up for our Action Report and stay tuned for our next blog on setting up a positive learning environment.

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