Communicating with Parents during Distance Learning

Distance learning is a real thing. It’s a widespread real thing in our world right now. As I write during the Coronavirus/ COVID-19 outbreak, schools across the US have shifted to online learning activities. I have been chatting (Virtually) with my teacher friends, I have been a parent in the community, and I have been working to create resources to help teachers to meet the needs of their students during this time.

The truth is ….Parents Feel Stress/Overwhelmed about the concept of “homeschooling”.

We have received dozens of e-mails from teachers. Some of them are extremely long. As a parent I see how overwhelming that can be. I don’t know which e-mails my child (specifically my 7th grader) has been receiving and has already addressed (login etc). Because of this overwhelm, I have seen and heard of parents skipping the e-mails altogether.

Here are a few ideas I have about helping to address these concerns with parents to help you communicate realistic expectations to families early and succinctly but completely.

1.Communicate early on that this is not “Homeschooling”

I keep hearing from the parent crew I keep in touch with that they are NOT teachers and don’t know how to teach their children. Assure them that this is NOT homeschooling. While they might be able to help their children with a thing here or there, assure them that the content will come from you.  This has the opportunity to take a huge burden off of parents shoulders.

2. Plan e-mails thoughtfully

Here’s the thing- It took you a LONG time to write that 2 page email- to think of the important parts. But parents are not ready to receive that level of information. Some have information overload. Others are under huge family and financial strain and are already struggling.  It’s a huge challenge to balance that communication level.

Consider writing e-mails with numbered or bulleted information. It might  look something like this-

“Hi there, I hope you’re doing well.

As your child’s math teacher here are a few important things to know in summary (details follow below)

  1. Your child must login and join my Google Classroom here ______
  2. Your child will receive a daily e-mail by 9am with daily expectations on their Google Classroom.
  3. I will be updating grades in _____weekly.
  4. Please know that while we are encouraging and expecting full participation in these distance learning activities, I am flexible, understanding and here to help.

Then consider going through and offering more details at the bottom of the e-mail.

3.  Follow up with quick alerts rather than long e-mails

Services like Remind are great for sending parents pertinent information in a way that is not all lost within their e-mail. They can receive the messages through text/ email/ app. This is great if there’s a specific meeting you’d like to announce to the class, or if there’s some action parents need to take. You can also message parents individually this way, and I find that these type of alerts tend to get my attention and be easier to digest because they are designed to be short calls to action.

It’s also nice to reach out to parents through an app like Remind with a quick message about students. It’s easy to get the message to them however they select in the app. Imagine how nice it would be for a parent to get a message that said “So proud of ____ hard work! Great job!” Those sorts of quick messages can make a difference!

4. Have you thought of releasing a video or voluntary video chat meeting with parents?

I bet seeing your face, understanding your calm and flexibility, will help to remind them that you’re human and will help communicate your passion for giving their children the gift of education during this difficult time. (Maybe those who are being in a tough total freak out mode will even soften up a bit).

5. Keep communication consistent.

I have to say that the first week of distance learning we received long e-mails sent to all students from each teacher. We had so much information and then… nothing. Silence in many cases. I’m hearing that from other parents too. They are feeling like, especially with older children, if they hear nothing it must be good news. I think sending a very short updated e-mail consistently to parents could really help them to remember that you are on the same team, and really continue to build the home-school partnership.

If you have some further suggestions, please feel free to add them in the comments… and keep going, you’re doing great!

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