7 Ways to Win with Families During Virtual Learning
7 Ways to Win with Families During Virtual Learning
This school year, parents and teachers are collaborating in an increasingly virtual world. Principal Tara Campbell is just few months into year one of serving over 450 K–12 students via the Flexible Learning for Educational Excellence (FLEX) Academy, a virtual school option in Georgia’s Douglas County School System. Previously, we shared her best practices for virtual learning success.
Today, we’ll dive into seven ways schools and teachers can win with families. Parents and caregivers play an irreplaceable role in the learning journey, especially for virtual students. It is not only important that they’re ready to serve as an active learning guide (particularly for lower grade levels) but also that they receive the support they need from their child’s school in order to be successful. Here are some of Dr. Campbell’s tips for fostering a home-to-school connection for parents in the virtual setting.
- Update parents on curriculum plans through weekly videos.
“The most recent thing we've implemented that I think is really helping some of our K-5 families is the teachers do a video of what's supposed to be happening for the coming week for those who are on pace in the program,” said Dr. Campbell.
Every Monday, FLEX elementary teachers present an overview of the content that students will see in their program. The videos typically last 10 minutes and consist of teachers sharing their screen and clicking through the platform in the student view. This way, parents are easily looped in on how their child should be using the program each week and what they will be learning.
- Host weekly virtual Q&A sessions.
Creating space for parents to ask questions is especially important this school year, as caregivers are playing a larger role in guiding their child’s learning. After each Monday overview video, FLEX K-5 Academy hosts a virtual Q&A session later in the day, depending on teachers and their schedules.
“Then the parents can come in after viewing the video and ask questions about the work for the week,” Dr. Campbell shared. “That’s something we’re doing to try to keep students on pace.”
- Continue to grow your relationship with parents by staying connected in smaller ways.
Staying connected is about more than being a resource to help answer questions—it’s also about forging a partnership with shared learning goals. Being available in smaller ways on a consistent and predictable basis is one way to further connect with parents and help them feel comfortable seeking guidance that will empower their child. For example, just knowing that a teacher is most reachable and responsive via email (or another preferred medium) on certain days of the week, or even times of the day, can go a long way for parents.
“The teachers that are really making the connections with the parents [are] doing a great job of this,” noted Dr. Campbell.
Forging these connections and opening lines of communication prevent small issues from snowballing into larger, insurmountable problems. Mitigating these bottlenecks ultimately leads to bigger rewards, helping students succeed.
As Dr. Campbell reflected, “the little things are really the big things.”
- Maximize communication streams to ensure that you’re reaching parents.
When it comes to reaching parents in a virtual setting, communication can easily get buried. The way Dr. Campbell is mitigating this challenge is by reaching out via multiple channels and at multiple times to inform parents of announcements related to course recordings, extra credit, and more. Channels at FLEX Academy include Google Meets, email, Remind, SchoolMessenger blasts, and phone calls.
“Teachers make a lot of phone calls,” noted Dr. Campbell. “We're trying to reach out in every way that we can so that students and parents are getting the word.”
- Create a virtual open house.
Offering a virtual open house orientation at the beginning of the semester is another way to engage with parents and keep them in the loop. These can be more convenient than traditional open houses, as parents can opt to attend live or access recordings to recap the event later. Dr. Campbell described the components of the open house her school offered in the fall, which included multiple sessions over different topics such as:
- Specific subject-area trainings from teachers describing how students can be successful in individual subjects
- Program overviews, parent trainings, and resources from each of the online learning platform providers, including Edmentum’s Courseware and Calvert Learning
- Special education and gifted programs
- Monitor pacing closely.
Dr. Campbell also made note of supporting students by monitoring their pacing, particularly those students who may be falling behind. Teachers can then work with parents to map out helpful intervention strategies.
“A few weeks in, we made note of all the students that were two weeks or more behind, and all those people were called,” shared Dr. Campbell. On such a call, teachers will walk through solutions with the child’s caregiver.
Dr. Campbell noted that what may be self-evident to a lifelong educator is not necessarily as obvious to parents: “So, things like, ‘We’ll help your child craft a schedule based around when the Google Meets are and based around what they're behind on.’ Offer to do that with them.” These simple, everyday solutions can make a great difference.
- Encourage students to create personal schedules.
One of the best parts of online learning is its flexible nature, allowing students to move through their program as independent learners. Particularly with older students, it’s important to highlight personal responsibility as a major driver for academic success in a virtual setting. Students will benefit from creating their own personal schedules, and one way that parents can help encourage this is by framing the increased student agency as a privilege.
“Making your own schedule is a privilege, but with any privilege comes responsibility,” noted Dr. Campbell. Setting the expectation early and working together to ensure follow-through is a key component for success in an online learning setting.
Invest in partnerships with families for a more successful academic year. Check out additional free offers, teaching tips, and printables on our Family Resources page!