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How Parents and Teachers Can Work Together This Fall

During this pandemic, school has been at the top of mind for so many of us, and in Episode 09 of “One Day You’ll Thank Me” our guest expert was Susan Swensen, veteran teacher, mom, and podcaster. My main purpose for this discussion was to share with parents what they can do to partner with their kids teacher’s this fall, creating a successful school year during COVID 19 - sharing effective ways that together, parents and teachers can set students up for success.

To set the stage, Susan shared with us what teachers experienced when the world shut down in March 2020 - Susan herself felt that most teachers really went into a tailspin, their main focus turned into how to survive those last couple of months of the school year- hustling to make videos, connecting online with students, creating small reading groups, anything to get the services that the kids needed! She also shared that she spent many long hours not just teaching and connecting with the kids, but behind the scenes, because her school wanted parents contacted each day. There was a good majority of time spent each day communicating with parents, documenting the communication, often to the detriment of academics. It really turned into crisis mode for teachers.

The goal now is to transition out of crisis mode.

What I have seen as a clinician, from the family perspective, is that many parents and children had experienced increased stress in their relationship as a result of virtual schooling in the spring. The parents had to shift from their role as a support system for their kids- one that helped with homework, study for a test, etc, to the primary teacher. All of this on top of all the changes with health safety, finances, and everything else that has gone along with this pandemic.

With the kids that needed more guidance, the parents were more stressed because the time that they spent together had turned from quality time into giving directions - did you turn that assignment in, time to get online now, prompting them to follow up on communications, etc. The parents were missing the time they used to spend just being together.

From the teen point of view, Anna recalls the surreal experience of hearing the news that school was closed and initially thinking it would only last a couple of weeks. She thought it was crazy and couldn’t believe it was happening so fast. Then having to shift to classes and learning all on line and Google research, she became concerned if she was doing the right things and doing the right research. She shared that her experience with virtual learning varied greatly, depending on both the teacher and the nature of the class. Some were more active and emailing each day and sending extra materials, and other ones just sent website links to look at and answer questions. From Anna’s perspective, she felt that she received more from the teachers that took a more active role and constructed the class in a productive way.

As we go into this fall school year, the main challenges that teachers are being faced with is how to teach them effectively without actually being there in the room with the kids, instead being on video in their home environment where there are often many distractions, like blenders going off, dogs barking, and kids looking at cell phones or YouTube. We joke about those things, but we all know that at times they are the reality.

Anna admits that kids will often use their cell phones off-camera, which horrified me, lol. We found out that there are some sneaky tactics students use to (falsely) appear attentive, putting fake photos on zoom that looks like the student is paying attention, putting a video loop that seems like they are actively there participating, and we are sure many more, just a warning for parents what to watch for.

For some teachers, the learning curve for teaching with technology is steep. Some of them are not used to technology, letting alone teaching on it. They are used to interactive classrooms using physical cues, eye contact, morning greetings. These teachers are having to figure out how to keep that social and emotional piece in place (especially in elementary school).

For those going back to into the classrooms, they are being charged with finding solutions for the recommended 6 ft distance, keeping kids away from each other and their belongings, and keeping the rooms clean. There are many moving parts to keep in mind as we all move forward together. Keeping communication open and proactive is key.

How can parents best communicate with teachers in the fall?

  • Reaching out to introduce yourself to the teacher via phone or email right off the bat is the best way to start.

  • Let the teacher know if you have a particular communication need, as they will do their best to accommodate your schedule or needs in order to have fluid communication.

  • It is highly recommended that parents use the communication apps endorsed by the teacher (such as Remind or Class Dojo). There are a lot of good updates and information and comes in one spot for all parents, as well as students.

  • If your child has an IEP or a special need, please advocate for your child by sharing your concerns with their teacher right away to make sure communication flows to everyone involved.

It is important to be patient with how quickly teachers respond to emails, as teachers get MANY emails each day, and there is a protocol that they must follow when it comes to replying to parents and documenting contact from parents. Many questions and concerns can be taken care of smoothly and easily if the lines of communication are open.

Lastly, Susan notes that a parent's experience with school as a child can have an impact on their child's view of school and can significantly impact their motivation and performance. Having a positive mindset and creating an environment that's conducive to learning will help set your child up for success.

To hear this podcast go to: How Parents & Teachers Can Work Together

This episode is sponsored by Eaton Press. Eaton Press provides writing coaching, editing, and publishing services to help business professionals write, publish, and market their books as a tool to grow their business. Make your book happen.

Susan Swensen, our guest expert, is the host of Shared Teaching.

To learn more about Dr. Egan's online mini-course called "Managing Your Family's Technology and Social Media", created to help parents eliminate power struggles, keep your family safe from internet misuse, and reconnect with your family, please click RIGHT HERE.

To hear the podcast in its entirety go to COVID-19, Teens, & Social Media

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To learn more about Dr. Tara Egan, visit

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If you'd like to try BARK, a dashboard that monitors content on your child's technological devices, please use the code QSG7JBW to get 20% off. If you'd like to try Circle Home Plus to set guidelines around when and where your kids spend their online screen time, use THIS LINK to get $20 off. I use both of these tools to protect my children.

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