Navigating Distance Learning
As parents embrace the reality of distance learning for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, many are concerned about their child falling behind. For parents of special needs students, they may also be concerned about regression. Canopy Children’s Solutions’ CARES School Jackson Principal Maureen Long shares advice for parents concerned with the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on their child’s education.
“It’s understandable that parents may have concerns about their child missing a quarter of the school year,” said Long. “Concerns of students in grades K – 4 may be the highest since these students are developing foundational skills and are more reliant on teachers and other school staff. Parents may feel inadequate to meet their children’s needs, especially at these grade levels, but teachers are here to be your ally.”
School districts are working to meet the unique needs of students. Particularly for younger elementary students, assignments are being tailored toward retention of skills rather than focusing on new skills. Teachers already implement a time of review and remediation at the beginning of each school year; however, with the loss of an entire grading period teachers and administrators know that school will not resume “as normal” upon return. Students will need to be introduced to concepts that they missed while out and teachers and administrators will be changing the curriculum to meet these needs. Every child returning to school in the Fall of 2020 will have experienced the same time away from school and therefore, special consideration will be made to meet students where they are. The good news is, meeting kids where they are academically is a teacher’s specialty.
Long recommends to help keep children from falling behind to have your child complete assignments from his or her teacher to the best of their ability. Parents should try to have schedules in place that help to focus their attention on school assignments and progress. However, she also states when you or your child begins to get frustrated or overwhelmed, work in some fun and take a break. Remember that elementary-aged students don’t have long attention spans. Academic assignments should take up less than two hours per day.
“Teachers are standing by to help when you need their assistance,” said Long. “Don’t be embarrassed or afraid to ask if there’s something you don’t understand. Teaching your own child is one of the hardest things to do. Just ask a teacher! When your child is having difficulty, know that he or she is probably doing their best in the given moment. Make sure you praise their efforts. It’s ok to stop and let your child see you scratch your head as you try to come up with solutions, too.”
If you’re still concerned about your child falling behind, work in some simple activities. Some examples can include reviewing spelling words from earlier in the year, reading books, practicing sight words, reviewing math problems or testing out a free trial on an educational app like Freckle, ABC Mouse or Reading A-Z to keep their skills sharp. These can even be used during the summer months to combat summer learning loss.
Parents of students with special needs may be even more concerned over their child falling behind or skills regression if students are not receiving the supports and services included in their child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP). Long says that parents should be in contact with their child’s special education teachers so that services and accommodations included on the child’s IEP are continued as much as possible during this time. This may include video teaching sessions, customized assignments, therapies such as speech, and counseling.
“Work with your child’s teacher to make sure services are individualized and aligned with their IEP,” says Long. “It’s perfectly fine to offer suggestions and solutions, we’re all in this together. You may have a great idea that the teacher hasn’t considered.”
When things return to what will become our new normal, you can expect that there will be some gaps in what your child has learned and what is typically taught within a normal school year for his or her grade. Teachers will expect that too. Do the best you can and know that your child’s school is making preparations to get your child, and all students, back on track in the 2020-2021 school year.
Laura Walker is the staff writer for Canopy Children’s Solutions. Canopy offers an array of behavioral health, educational and social service solutions to children and families throughout Mississippi. For more information about solutions offered through Canopy, please visit mycanopy.org or call 800-388-6247.