‘So Now What?’ webinar: How to partner with your kid’s teachers

By Melissa Rayworth

As a new year of learning gets underway in schools and homes around the country, many parents may be wondering: What is my role in this strange, new configuration? How involved should I be and how can I best support my child without driving the teachers crazy?

To help answer these questions, the nonprofit Learning Heroes and the Tomorrow campaign partnered for the latest webinar in the “So Now What? Helping Parents & Caregivers Navigate a School Year Like No Other” series.

“This year is about partnership,” Windy Lopez-Aflitto told a crowd of more than 500 registered Sept. 16 for this virtual seminar, titled “Ready to Partner: 5 Steps for a different kind of school year for families and schools.”

“Every parent is a learning hero right now,” she said. “This is truly an ‘it takes a village’ moment.”

So how can parents be the best possible participants in that village?

First of all, Lopez-Aflitto told the audience, schools understand that parents aren’t trained for this job — and in many cases are busy juggling their own work while their children are doing schoolwork at home.

“You are not teachers. And you didn’t sign up to be. You might not even feel that you’re ready to be a sort of facilitator of learning. But what we can be is champions of learning,” Lopez-Aflitto said.

We can be encouraging cheerleaders as our kids do their best to learn remotely and cope with the absence of friends. Just as important, we can partner with teachers to share our insight into who our children are and how they’re doing.

Here’s a quick summary of the five tips Lopez-Aflitto shared:

  • Your voice is needed more than ever. So be proactive in letting teachers know the best way to reach you. If you’re don’t generally check email during the school day and would rather get texts, for example, send the teacher a quick note explaining that. And if something isn’t working during these first weeks, communicate. Send a polite note thanking the teacher or administrators for all they’re doing, then mention your concern. In Lopez-Aflitto’s case, her daughter has been given great audiobooks, but the playback has a distracting echo. Her child’s teacher might not have known if Lopez-Aflitto hadn’t sent a quick, cheerful note.
  • When spring semester was disrupted last year, many children fell a bit behind on core math and reading skills. It’s valuable to start this year with a clear picture of your child’s skill levels, so Learning Heroes has created a free, interactive tool to help assess that. The online Readiness Check offers three to five grade-appropriate questions in math and reading. They’re fun and “gamified,” and won’t take long to complete. Use the assessment for the grade your child completed last year. If the results is that our child needs extra support, Learning Heroes offers free resources to help sharpen those skills.
  • It will be challenging for teachers to get to know students as quickly or as fully as they might have during a normal school year. You can help, because you are the expert on your particular child. Send a brief note telling the teacher a bit about your child. Describe a bit about their personality, likes/dislikes and how they may be feeling about this unique school year.
  • Take time to talk with your child about how they’re feeling. Let them know that any and all feelings are OK, especially when things are so unfamiliar and they’re missing friends. “When we surveyed parents across the country in the spring, the top concern for parents was the loss of social interaction,” Lopez-Aflitto told the audience. “Brain science shows that social-emotional and academic skills are interconnected. Learning is relational.”
  • Lastly, Lopez-Aflitto encourages all parents to acknowledge their own stress and realize they deserve patience and support. “We are learning heroes in this moment, even if we don’t want to be called that,” she said. So celebrate your small successes, even if some days that simply amounts to getting your kids up for school and getting everyone through the day. Along the way, reach out to other parents for support and community.

For more details on all of this, watch a video recording of “Ready to Partner: 5 Steps for a different kind of school year” here.

And register here for upcoming So Now What? seminars, happening every Wednesday evening in September. Upcoming topics include safe, successful student use of online technology during at-home school days.