Parents and online learning

Soooo much training! In the last 10 days at work I’ve completed five modules of mandatory training on Zoom, had two webinars on using EtonX with YLs, got up to speed quickly with Microsoft Teams (which I had previously neglected a bit, and I’m still a bit naff) and done a whole load of other online webinars. Phew!

Anyhow, there seems to be a lot of training around for teachers. Once we get settled with these new modes of delivery, I’m hoping that they’ll be a bigger push towards training for parents.

It’s one thing for teachers to find our feet with whatever online learning tool we need, then to help the learners do so too (wait, that’s two things). But I feel like parents are already being neglected a bit in this process. It’s early days I know, but I guess many parents will be feeling anxious about their child’s learning, how effective it can be online, how they might be expected to support their child. After all, parents want the best for their children.

For the last five years I’ve been working at a school that is fairly good at involving parents in their kid’s learning journey (as far as TEFL goes I mean). Communication books, display and say, parent orientation, parent-only workshops, parents consultation… there are quite a lot of things we do to engage and inform parents. Of course we do, parents are a major stakeholder – and they are the ones with the money!

However, the current situation is undoubtedly a curveball. I’m familiar with the international school scene here in Thailand as well as TEFL, and I feel the reaction seems very much ‘get teachers up to scratch with tech, get home learning in place for review, consolidation and presence, then we’ll think about how we can make our offer more comprehensive in the long-run once the holidays pass’.

I totally get that. But being a parent, I can also empathize with that feeling of anxiety – like, ‘what is going on? What do I do? What/how is my kid learning, arrrrgh! I don’t get it!’.

… and I’m an educator!

A conversation I had the other day drummed this home. A parent had got in touch with a teacher who had set work for VYLs. It was a home learning project, something to do with baking your own cakes. The parent contacted the teacher saying…

‘I’ve seen that today’s learning is baking cakes. I’ve done this with my kid before and I don’t really get where the learning is. I mean, if it’s motor skills then I guess they can already hold spoons and stir things. What else are they learning? I think they already know the words for all the ingredients. What else am I supposed to do…?’ etc

I realise there’s a disconnect. As an educator (EAL) my reaction is like ‘there’s sooo much learning there – following instructions, action verbs for cooking, blah blah blah, and so many other opportunities for development too’. Then I’m like, oh wait, it’s my job to know that. How can I communicate better with parents to ensure that they are aware of what we are looking for from the kids? How can parents look for opportunities to stretch their kids? How and when should they offer more support? Etc.

I don’t mean us parents are thick! There’s so much we do implicitly or naturally to support our child’s development. I just mean that, well, a lot of parents are being thrust into ‘teaching’ roles right now. I bet they’d rather feel like they are teaching assistants to be honest, and clearer guidance from us, as qualified educators, is what they need. We need to bridge the gap.

So, while I’m enjoying upskilling at the moment, I think some of this is misplaced. I’m really looking forward to the next phase of this online learning journey which will probably involve more input and engagement for parents. If you’re already doing that, AWESOME! If you’re not, I’d say get cracking! Equipping parents with more practical teaching skills (and knowledge of teaching) would be really beneficial in the long run. No, I don’t mean for profit, I mean for the kids.

Image by Daniela Dimitrova from Pixabay 

2 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing Pete. I have to work on learning more about Microsoft Teams and am a bit behind the curve there. Personally, I have been getting my students to focus more on Google Drive for their contributions during lessons. I do more asynchronous teaching now than synchronous teaching – a form of flipped learning before the class also. Good blog post by the way and stay safe with your family.

    Liked by 1 person

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