By Jeanne Huybrechts, Chief Academic Officer, Stratford School
Ways you can help support your child’s learning
Hard work and involvement can ensure a student’s progress
Currently parents of young children are facing two scenarios that may extend throughout the school year. In some parts of the country and in some circumstances, schools are reopening, and children are returning to campus and the classrooms they abruptly left more than six months ago. In much of the country, “return to school” means returning to some form of distance learning – either full time or embedded in a hybrid model of recurring cycles of traditional school and online instruction. That said, school will look different for a while, and there are many things that parents can do to help their children navigate the differences.
Minimize morning drama. Build a lifelong habit!
Most “return to campus” models include modifications to classroom seating, fewer opportunities for children to move around during the day and interact in “centers” and small groups, and new health and safety practices that take some getting used to. Preparing for school in the morning will likely take more time and this is something that parents can help manage.
- Getting ready for school will take more time this year yet it doesn’t have to be more stressful. Manage the added workload by getting as much done the night before. Begin asking your child to make/assemble his/her own lunch or clean his backpack, returning to it only what he/she needs for the next day.
- Create a staging area in the house where everything that needs to go to school the next morning – backpack, art project, umbrella, filled water bottle, permission slips, two clean face masks – is ready to grab on the way out the door.
Music, Art, Team Sports, Competition
Even schools that can open this fall will not be able to accommodate programs and practices that were always good for children – including performing arts and organized sports. Both are ensemble/team endeavors, and each builds skills and habits of mind not emphasized in other areas of school.
- Encourage your child to learn or continue practicing a musical instrument, working with an instructor who can teach online. (I have known kids who have learned to play an instrument just by watching how-to YouTube videos!)
- In the absence of organized sports, youngsters can fulfill the “activity” piece with daily exercise, inside or outside. Biking, hiking, roller skating, and running are all great and flexible choices.
“Maslow before Bloom”
One hears this expression a lot in education circles, as most teachers are quite familiar with the work of Benjamin Bloom and Abraham Maslow. Psychologist contemporaries, Bloom and Maslow developed frameworks to describe human understanding, but from different angles. Bloom’s taxonomy describes learning goals, including knowledge, comprehension, and understanding. Maslow describes a hierarchy of needs – physical and psychological – including safety, belonging, love, and esteem. “Maslow before Bloom” implies that basic human essentials need to be addressed before learning can occur.
As we embark upon this school year, “Maslow before Bloom” should be every teacher’s and parent’s mantra. Whether children are returning to school buildings and friends they haven’t seen for six months or embarking on a year of distance learning with a teacher they haven’t yet met in person, the first order of business should be building comfort and trust. Trust-building should be a priority and developed throughout the year.
- Early in the school year, reach out to your child’s teacher and introduce yourself and your family. Share family stories, values, your family’s living situation this fall, your child’s feelings about the return to school.
- In the best schools, teachers and parents partner and support each other, and that has never been more important than now. Even if your child is able to return to campus during the day, organized after-school programs will probably be eliminated or very limited, meaning, once again, you will be spending more time filling in the gaps. You and your child’s teacher can learn from each other and that amplification of learning benefits your child.
Working together, parents and educators can prepare each child for a path to success. After all, as we have heard, many times it does take a village to make it happen.