4 Questions to Ask Parents at the Beginning of the School Year
It seems like just yesterday schools all over the world were closing their physical doors and jumping head first into distance learning with little or no preparation. Days and weeks and months went by, and while many students took the adjustment in stride, there are those who struggled severely. Luckily, for many families, parents were at the epicenter of it all. And because of that, they now have a wealth of knowledge about the students that will walk into (or log onto) our classes come fall. Here are four very important questions to ask parents as we prepare for a new school year:
Did distance learning present any glaring academic concerns? If so, what are they?
Many parents in the U.S. will have spent the better part of six months with their students in a distance learning environment by the time the school year starts. Inevitably, they’ve learned things about their children that they may have never noticed when they only saw them for 2-3 hours after school each day. They may have noticed that their students’ math skills are shaky, or that some reading comprehension skills have gotten a little rusty. Maybe their student struggles with moving past the point of frustration when they are unable to figure something out on their own. Whatever it is, parents have noticed. And it’s our job, as educators, to help remediate the issues when we get the students back.
What is your preferred method of communication?
It’s important that parents feel a sense of partnership as they send their students back to school in the new normal. Prioritizing communication that nurtures relationship building and connectedness increases the likelihood that parents—and, in turn, their students—feel supported. Determine whether parents prefer text messages, phone calls, emails, or messages via your learning management system (LMS). Be prepared for parents to have different preferences and consider figuring out how to accommodate them. This is, after all, a transition for everyone. Parents want to know that teachers are putting forth the extra effort to ensure the successful transition back into the blended learning environment.
How has your student fared mentally and emotionally during his or her time away from school?
The Covid-19 pandemic thrust the entire world into a time of emotional and mental distress stemming from the unknown nature of… well, everything. It’s critical to take this into account when dealing with the social and emotional well-being of students as they return to school. Having candid conversations with parents about how their students have dealt with emotional and mental stress gives educators deeper insight into how to move forward with each student, keeping in mind that each student may be handling their feelings and thoughts differently. This is not to say that you should position yourself as a mental health expert or a psychiatrist (unless, of course, you do have those credentials), but does bring to mind the idea of: the more we know, the better equipped we are to face whatever is in front of us.
Ask parents to discuss their students’ personal characteristics related to successful blended learning.
After holding the temporary title of “teacher” during distance learning, parents have had time to pick up on certain traits their students have regarding their ability to find success in a blended learning environment. In a candid conversation, ask parents to rate (on a scale of 1-10, perhaps) and discuss their students’ aptitude in the following areas:
- Time management
- Digital citizenship
- Help seeking
Having a deeper understanding of the traits students are coming back to school with will help us move forward making sure that we address the whole child in our teaching.
Overall, we must view parents as our allies and ensure them and their students that we are in this together. Although, circumstances and situations may have changed, the most important factors remain the same: the social and emotional well-being and academic success of our students are a top priority.