The school year is well under way and many of our students are still having to deal with learning either completely or partially online because of COVID-19. In my daily practice with children, adolescents, and young adults, I continue to encounter students who are struggling to learn this way and parents who don’t know how to help them. Because this is new and uncharted territory for us all, I turned to my friend and education advisor, Yolanda Campbell, for advice. Yolanda has been teaching high school math and special education, combined, for 20 years (full credentials are listed below). She is currently teaching at a large, public high school in St. Louis that continues to operate 100% virtually. She has agreed to share her perspective and recommendations for how parents can help students of all ages cope with online learning. Please tailor the following suggestions according to the ages and abilities of your students.
It is incredibly draining to spend all day in front of a screen. If you have a printer at home or at your office, suggest your students print out any worksheets, assignments, or readings so they don’t have to complete them online. They can use their phones to take pictures of finished work and email it to their teachers. If your students are experiencing eye strain or headaches, have their vision checked and look into glasses that reduce computer screen glare.
Encourage your students to take breaks between classes and throughout the day. Have them stand up and stretch, get a snack or drink of water, or go outside between classes. If they seem really drained or overwhelmed after school, you may need to push them to take a walk, write in their journal, or listen to music.
Many students have to use various electronic platforms throughout their classes, which can be confusing and lead to lost learning due technical difficulties. Make sure your students understand how to use each platform by searching Google to find short video tutorials. If possible, watch these tutorials with your younger kids, so you can help them troubleshoot when necessary. At a minimum, familiarize yourselves with Google Classroom by running a Google search for “tutorials on Google Classroom for parents.”
To help your students stay on top of their school work, suggest they use a daily planner to keep track of what is due each day and what they have completed. If they are using Google Classroom, assignments will automatically show up on their calendars. If you have younger students, you can ask teachers to add your email to the Google Classroom guardian list so you can receive the emails your child receives, and the teacher will be able to easily contact you with any concerns.
Communication with teachers is more important than ever this year. For younger kids, let teachers know what you are noticing at home and ask for accommodations that might help your child, such as additional breaks during class or utilizing the weekends to get caught up on assignments. Better yet, teach your students to advocate for themselves. Help them write their own emails to teachers, so that by the time they are in middle school or high school, they are comfortable doing it on their own.
Check in with your students regularly. Ask them how they are doing and how you can help support them. Utilize video chat with your college students who are away so can see how they are doing.
Be understanding about what your students are going through. They are missing out on a great deal, like rights of passage and casual peer interactions they would normally get throughout the day. Be cognizant of the emotional impact the pandemic is having on them and make sure you are their support systems, their cheerleaders, and their shoulders to cry on.
If you ever feel your students need additional help, don’t hesitate to reach out to a school social worker or other mental health professional.
Yolanda Campbell has earned certification in high school math and special education cross categorical k-12, a Masters of Arts in teaching-special education k-12, and a Masters of Arts in education administration-secondary education.