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Building a Bridge Between Families and Schools During Covid-19: From the Lens of Educators

Building a Bridge Between Families and Schools During Covid-19: From the Lens of Educators

By Leann Springer & Missy Sieders

PEAK continues our series in response to the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on education. Again, the way forward must be met with collaboration. Our relationships and the bridges we build matter more than anything as we work toward solutions that help each of us and, most importantly the learners, who will shape our communities in the years to come. We recently reached out to educators to get their perspective. The following shares their feelings and experiences about the challenges they are facing in this brave, new world.

Q. What has been your greatest struggle in moving to remote, online, or distance learning due to COVID-19 closures?

Based on our survey responses teachers are struggling with a lack of connection and participation; they’ve had no communication at all with some students since the crisis began Sadly, up to 20% of one teacher’s students had dropped all contact. One teacher expressed their challenge of converting hands-on manipulatives to the screen-based classroom to help kids who learn best through kinesthetic and tactile means. Building and maintaining relationships at a distance was another significant worry - teachers are afraid of losing touch with their students.

Q. Please describe one remarkable success you or your student(s) have experienced amid the current crisis.

Some students appear to be handling classwork better. Teachers noted that some students have shown increased confidence and independence in the at-home setting. A lack of classroom distractions, comfort in home surroundings, and an increase in response time are factors that have helped these students. One teacher shared that this has pushed them to become more familiar with online platforms they would not have otherwise used. Another teacher said they couldn’t think of any positive outcomes!

Q. Please provide one tip or piece of advice you would give parents or students for handling this new mode of learning.

Teachers shared that face-to-face check-ins via Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc. are essential to students, classmates, and teachers - to capture as much social interaction as possible; learning is a social endeavor. They also suggested parents create structure in their homes and keep expectations for their kids high. One teacher recommended families allow mistakes and failures to naturally occur as they are stepping stones on the path to success. Additional advice included encouraging your child/students to hone up on their self-advocacy skills and practice asking for help. Ensuring we each practice self-care and give ourselves and one another plenty of grace was also noted.  

Q. What would you like others to know about how this situation is affecting you?

Teachers indicated that they are working harder than they ever have, “A lesson that [previously] would have taken an hour to plan takes three now.” They are having a hard time too, no different than the rest of us, citing loneliness and depression. A few said that not being able to see and connect with students is hard, “that’s why we teach.” Other responses cited difficulties meeting all students’ needs. Additionally for students receiving special education services, meeting all the IEP requirements is difficult in this setting. Finding the right amount of work for students who may or may not be facing varying obstacles was another issue - some families are reporting too much work, while others report not enough. 

Q. Is there anything else would you like to share with families, students, or the community specifically about supporting students with disabilities during this time?

Ensuring students are utilizing teacher office hours was a common theme among responses, stressing the importance of personal connection. Additionally, it was suggested to make sure your child has access to and is comfortable using any software or browser extensions that are necessary for accommodations to access/express learning. Teachers also conveyed the importance of meeting kids’ basic needs before learning can occur. Make sure your child’s social/emotional needs are met. “They are spending numerous hours at home, isolated, and in a completely new learning environment.”

Certainly, upon reading the educator responses one feels the weight that our teachers are carrying as they are faced with an impossibly daunting task. We are asking more of our educators than ever before and with fewer resources to boot. We must ensure our communities support their endeavors as we move forward. We have always asked much from our educators, and now many are spread much too thin.  Many articles and interviews are circulating showing teachers at their breaking point having to choose to put food on the table and the lights on over helping to oversee their own children’s education at home.

And, more questions linger. As we move forward, when we don’t know what school will look like in the fall, how can we ensure that the children who are thriving in this new mode of learning will retain that opportunity as schools reopen? How can we create equitable opportunities for ALL learners? Decades of research exist that show inclusion and Universal Design for Learning should be at the heart of the educational framework, leveling the field, planning for diversity. Education, specifically public education, is the cornerstone of our community - without it, other systems start to crumble.  COVID-19 has essentially ripped off the band-aid and our school systems now need major interventions to stop the bleeding, all while funding for schools is diminishing. How will you contribute to the solution? What will be your first step to building a bridge?

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