••• Education •••

An open letter to parents as teachers

Dear parents of school-age children,

Even though schools have been closed for the rest of the school year, teaching and learning continue. Most of you are now in a new role, making sure your children are completing their assignments and getting those back to the school. You have now become a teacher.

The state was quick to form a task force that published this document that has, among other things, what you can expect from your school and some tips and guidelines for parents as teachers. I strongly suggest you take a look, at it, if you haven’t already done so, and also stay connected with your school through their website.

As stressful and scary as this may seem, it is a great opportunity for many to get closer to your child’s (children’s) education. As an elementary teacher for two decades, I can attest that teaching can be a challenge. As a parent, we know that is true. However, the rewards of being part of a child’s education success are well worth it.

Here are a few tips I can give you help get you through the teaching day. First and foremost: be patient. This is a new experience for both you and your child, so there will likely be some tense moments. I can’t tell you how many deep breaths and walk-aways I did in twenty years, even in the best of times.

Another is to make it clear that your child is responsible for their own learning. I can’t stress that enough. It’s easy to just “give them the answer,” especially as a parent, but that doesn’t help them. Hopefully, their school has emphasized how important it is for them to take responsibility for their learning. You’re doing good by reinforcing that idea.

Another is, if it all possible, come up with a daily schedule for schooling. Kids do better when they have consistency and parameters, and that goes for learning too.  Build in lots of breaks, you’ll both need them! Don’t try to do too much and don’t hesitate to go back over something if you don’t think they understand it (remember: patience!)

Also, if you don’t know something or don’t understand some content, don’t be embarrassed to contact the teacher. I spoke with lots of parents about curriculum stuff – especially some of the concepts in upper-grade math! – to help them better grasp what their child was learning. All teachers should be more than happy to do that, especially now that you are directly supervising your child’s education.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to be perfect, I know that as a teacher I wasn’t. Just shoot for making sure your child knows how much you care and how important it is that schooling continues at home. Next week, after you’ve started to settle into this new gig, I will pass along some subject-specific ideas that might help.

In the meantime, here’s an easy, fun, and cheap activity that can be adapted for any age or number of people or any amount of time. It’s called single sentence story. It only requires pencil or pen and paper. One person starts a story with a single sentence. Everyone writes down the sentence. Everybody takes a turn adding to the story, one sentence at a time, with everybody writing down the sentence. And so on, and so on. It’s great for writing, grammar and spelling and can be done with or without parent involvement (although it’s a lot more fun when Mom and Dad play!). For older kids, it can be done online with friends from distance.

Until then, stay focused and stay safe.

All the best,

David Dorsey