The Back to School season can be both an exciting and stressful time for parenting adults and students alike. While this year is sure to be no different in this regards, it certainly brings a new set of challenges and concerns as CPS kicks-off remotely. This time around schools are more prepared and have a set plan. While the expectations of school staff have increased, so have the expectations for students and their families.
Hopefully, you have also had the chance to prepare and set up a plan of your own. However, as the school year starts you may find that the reality of virtual learning is different than anticipated and your plan may change and evolve to best fit your family’s needs.
Here are some tips and resources we’ve put together to help you set your student up for success.
Set (and keep) a schedule
This may seem like a given, especially with
schedules that CPS has implemented. However, you may find it more
challenging as time goes on to keep said schedule. As mentioned, the schedule
you first set, probably will need some modifications as you and your student(s)
adjust. You should allow some flexibility in order to accommodate needed
changes, but once you’ve got something that works, stick to it.
Insure that the schedule is clearly
communicated by writing it down in a central location as to hold everyone
accountable. Utilizing a timer to avoid losing track of time can help keep
everyone on track. Be sure to incorporate breaks that include movement, whether
it be a change of scenery, some light stretching, yoga, meditation, coloring or
other craft projects. The sky is the limit! The important part is that it
breaks up the day and is meaningful to the child. This will allow for better
concentration throughout the day, encouragement to keep on schedule, and flex
time if an activity or task takes longer than anticipated.
Create a daily plan.
This differs from a set schedule as it involves
identifying to-do items for that day. It results in a specific plan for that
specific day. Some people find utilizing a paper or digital planner/calendar to
be helpful. While others prefer different list making
Make sure students have the right materials.
Whether its pencil and paper, a stable WiFi
connection, log-in information for all accounts, a PDF reader, or note-taking
apps or reading
strategies– whatever they need to get the work done.
If your student is in need of a laptop or
other device for remote learning, please contact your school principal as soon
as possible. The District is making devices available to every student.
Additionally, you can find out if your household is eligible for free high
speed internet access through the Chicago Connected program by clicking
here or reaching out to your school principal.
Make sure all work is completed.
The idea behind tips 1 – 3 is to help best
prepare students for success by keeping them on track with what’s expected of
them. However, sometimes things slip through the cracks or remains incomplete
for other reasons. Hold students accountable by making sure there is a good reason
something may be incomplete. And help them setup a plan that is time-bound and
includes action steps to ensure it gets completed (e.g., email the teacher
asking for clarifications on step 3 of the activity so that you can turn it in
tomorrow by noon).
Remember virtual learning is new, expect there to be a learning curve.
Provide an environment conducive to learning.
This varies based on the student’s needs
and household limitations. For example, smaller apartments with everyone at
home can present a real challenge to keeping on task. If possible, be sure to
setup individual work stations for each child, even if it’s within the same
room having a dedicate place will help keep everyone in their routine.
If there is a lot of outside noise or if it
is too quiet, utilizing background noise may be helpful. This could be playing
music or ambient
noise tracks. However, if this is too distracting and outside noise cannot
be quieted, try investing in some noise canceling headphones or ear plugs.
If other outside distractions are
disrupting school work, get creative. For example, if social media sites are
the culprit, try
out an app that temporarily blocks these sites. These help prevent mindless
scrolling or check-ins to help stay focused and be more productive. Who knows,
maybe you’ll find that you could benefit from one as well.
Learn to identify barriers.
This is something teachers have to learn
early on in their careers–how to pinpoint exactly what’s happening or going
wrong (not unlike a mechanic or doctor). Diagnostic teaching is one approach
that can help here, the big idea is to identify precisely why your student
might be struggling: Is it focus? Motivation? Too much or too little structure?
Help them check messages and communicate with school.
Check for messages daily from schools,
teachers, and other students. Make sure to reply to any messages that require
one. And, do not hesitate to reach out to school staff, they are there to help.
Hence, our next tip…
Use school and district resources.
Check out the school’s website and Chicago Public School’s website as well. They
have a plethora of resources for students and adults, such as CPS’s Remote
Learning Guide. Additionally, if you are unfamiliar with it, the Office of
Family and Community Engagement in Education has a Parent University that includes workshops
for parents to navigate virtual learning.
CPS Command Center
Monday – Friday
8:00 am – 5:00pm
CPS Parent Tech Support Hotline
Monday – Friday
7:30am – 4:30pm
side note, if you are interested in providing support to your student’s school,
we encourage you to reach out the “Friends of” organization or attend a Local School Council
meeting to learn of ways you can get more involved.
Don’t teach – help them understand.
While you are not expected to be the
teacher, it is your role to help your student understand the content that is
being taught. This is now especially more important than ever.
Along with identifying barriers as discussed
in Tip 6. If your student is struggling with understanding a topic or problem,
exactly what do they not understand? When students say, ‘I don’t get it,’ the
first step is to identify exactly what ‘it’ is–and this isn’t always easy. Most
students don’t know what they don’t know. That’s why you (and an internet
full of resources) are there to help. Once you get to the bottom of what
‘it’ is, if you are unsure of how to help be sure to reach out to the teacher
that way they can assist as well.
Keep in mind that its’s about the child, not the work.
This can be difficult to keep in mind when
there is so much pressure (on everyone) to complete the work. And further, this
is obviously a parenting philosophy, which may not relate to your family.
But if you believe that assignments should
serve the child rather than the child serve the assignments–or that this is at
least partly true–then don’t over-emphasize ‘getting everything done’ over the
well-being (not to mention creative genius and curiosity and intrinsic
motivation) of your child.
Everyone has a different set of learning strategies and
styles, strengths and needs. You may find some of these tips more useful, while
others not so much. And, that’s okay. The point is to do what’s best for you
and your family knowing that it might take a bit of trial and error. After all,
to some extent, we are all learning as we go.
Do you have some of your own tips to add or resources to share? Please do so in the comments below. We would love to learn what’s working for our families. Additionally, if you need additional support feel free to reach out to Voice’s Resident Services staff at 773-769-2442.