As families begin preparing for their children to return to school or if they've already returned to on-site learning, there are many lessons to be learned from the experiences we've had over the past few weeks.
What has become obvious in the rapid response to the COVID-19 situation from school leaders, teachers, parents and students is that everyone was able to adapt to change very quickly and in a way that was very much focussed on making sure students were supported in their learning.
While many schools previously struggled to engage 'hard to reach' parents or avoided engaging parents in learning, this new way of learning from home for many families, seems to have increased trust as parents and teachers were forced very quickly to work alongside each other as partners in learning.
Now that schools are returning it would be very easy to slip back into old habits, both parents and teachers.
It's important to focus on avoiding these 5 mistakes:
- Disengaging with parents - during learning at home there were two very obvious improvements when it came to engagement of families in learning - relationships and communication. Communication of learning and expectations improved, which enabled parents to understand how and what their children were learning and how they could support learning at home - fundamental requirements when it comes to parent engagement in learning. This must continue to ensure improved student learning outcomes or we run the risk of disconnection once again.
- Not listening to parent feedback - during online learning at home many parents were, for the first time, privy to how their children learn, what they are capable of as learners and where they see gaps in their learning - it is critical that parent feedback is sought after, listened to and acted on if the partnership and the students are to flourish.
- Ignoring the benefits of learning at home for students - what can we learn from how engaged students were during online learning, what did they struggle with and what areas did they thrive in? How can online learning at home be integrated with learning at school - how did the environment impact their learning? All these questions need to be explored as students return to school to understand how their learning improved. With so much focus on deficits and how they've gone backwards, how about exploring where they actually progressed and why and how parent engagement in learning at home is critical for student success.
- Shutting parents out of school - the message we received from our leaders this past week was not conducive to continuing a partnership approach to engaging families in learning. As educators it could be easy to take on board this approach, to shut families out permanently. This will only backfire as the goal posts have now shifted. Many parents have had an insight and are now more keen than ever to have an equal role in their children's learning. To be denied this will only bring about frustration and anger and a breakdown in the relationship between home and school. Continuing to build relationships with families is critical to enhance the partnership that has grown over this time and to build positive school communities once the restrictions are lifted.
- Not listening to the teacher experience - how teachers have managed through this experience will be critical to understand where there may still be challenges in the relationship between teachers and parents. It's important to listen to teacher feedback to understand where they need support in building the partnership with parents to support children's learning and how to communicate this effectively with families.
There are so many valuable lessons to learn from our experiences in guiding and supporting children during learning at home. It's so important for students that the learnings gained are capitalised on. More value must be placed on the relationship between home and school, the critical role that parents have as partners in their child's learning and how to continue to work together to benefit student learning and wellbeing.