How Leaders Can Support Parents and Families--Right Now!

How Leaders Can Support Parents and Families--Right Now!

How Leaders Can Support Parents and Families--Right Now!

By: Steve Ventura

Our students and their families need extra support from teachers and leaders right now. Not only are they navigating this global health crisis and the fear and emotional distress that it can bring, they may be juggling job changes, financial burdens, or more. While we would all love to see that every student has a dedicated device and uninterrupted time during the day to commit to learning from home, the reality is that this is not the case for many families and as leaders, we can support their needs during these difficult times. And in many cases, parents are being asked to support learning for multiple children with multiple apps and programs to learn, all while trying to work from home, search for a job, or manage a household.

Here are a few ways that leaders can lighten the burden on teachers while supporting families during distance learning:

Provide Learning Tutorials and Support

Distance learning is new to everyone, especially families, and these families may be dealing with different protocols from various schools. While teachers have worked hard to find the best instructional tools to support online learning, students and parents are navigating these systems for the first time. Learning Management Systems, instructional apps, and other tools are likely new to parents and students, and the more support you can provide, the more likely they are to be used.

Consider creating a distance learning page on your website with tutorial videos. Post tips on how to use various tools on your social media pages and encourage your teachers to check in with parents and students who aren’t using the tools. Host weekly technology sessions with parents that are available live and on demand to review tech tips, cybersecurity, LMS training, and more. Make sure to translate videos or add subtitles for non-English speaking families.

Internet and Device Equity

Make sure that every student has internet accessibility and a device to access learning. Don’t rest until you are 100% sure that every student can access learning. Start with email surveys to gauge needs. Send physical letters and call the homes of every student or family who you have not heard from until you are certain that they have access. Work with your district leaders, local internet providers, and community leaders to support this initiative towards equitable access for all students.

Don’t Ignore Warning Signs

Are students not showing up or engaging in online learning? Work with teachers to check in with those students and families personally. Be flexible to meet the needs of families right now, but make sure that accessibility or teacher clarity are not the reasons for lack of engagement or attendance. Engage a school counselor or mental health professional if you have any concerns about the well-being of the student.

Support the social and emotional needs of students and parents through online communities, weekly group meetings, and related resources like articles or videos that could be useful to families. Lean on students and community members to support these sessions and initiatives.

Communicate Often and Consistently

Send weekly communication to parents and ensure that all families see updates by using a variety of outreach tactics—email, social media, website, mailed letter, etc. Keep communication brief, yet be transparent. Try to be consistent by sending a message on the same day of the week using the same template.

Don’t forget to seek family feedback and create a forum for responding to questions. Consider a Q&A section on your website and allow families to anonymously submit questions via an online or mail-in form.

The role of a leader is rapidly shifting as we all navigate the pandemic and distance learning, so never underestimate the need for self-care. Taking care of yourself will allow you to be better at taking care of your school community, and will ultimately lead to improved support for all students, teachers, and families.