10 Guidelines for Parents
The transition to distance learning will be challenging for families. Parents will need to think differently about how to support their children; how to create structures and routines that allow their children to be successful; and how to monitor and support their children’s learning. Some students will thrive with distance learning, while others may struggle. The ten guidelines provided below are intended to help parents think about what they can do to help their children find success in a distance learning environment.
Establish routines and expectations. From the first day FIS implements its DLP, parents need to establish routines and expectations. FIS encourages parents to set regular hours for their children’s school work. We suggest that Grade 6-8 and 9-12 students prepare to start their studies at the regularly scheduled time for their campus (FISO: 8:32/ FISW: 8:35). First Steps to Grade 5 at both campuses begin at 9:00. Keep normal bedtime routines for younger children and expect the same from your Middle School- and Upper School-aged students, too. (Don’t let them stay up late and sleep in!) Your children should move regularly and take periodic breaks as they study. It is important that parents set these expectations for how their children will spend their days starting as soon as distance learning is implemented, not several days later after it becomes apparent a child is struggling with the absence of routine.
Define the physical space for your child’s study. Your child may have a regular place for doing homework under normal circumstances, but this space may or may not be suitable for an extended period of time, as will be the case if this DLP is implemented. We encourage families to establish a space/location where their children will learn most of the time. This should be a public/family space, not in a child’s bedroom. It should be a place that can be quiet at times and have a strong wireless internet signal, if possible. Above all, it should be a space where parents are present and monitoring their children’s learning.
Monitor communications from your children’s teachers. Teachers will communicate with parents through email, Zoom or Seesaw, when and as necessary. The frequency and detail of these communications will be determined by your children’s ages, maturity, and their degree of independence. FIS wants parents to remain in contact with their children’s teachers. However, we ask parents to remember that teachers will be communicating with dozens of other families, if not 100+. Communications should therefore be essential and succinct. We also encourage parents to have their older children explain the Learning Management Systems (e.g. PowerSchool, Seesaw, Google GSuite) teachers are using.
Begin and end each day with a check-in. Parents are encouraged to start and finish each day with a simple check-in. In the morning, ask your child what he or she is learning today. What are their learning targets or goals? How will they spend their time? What resources do they require? What support do they need? This brief grounding conversation matters. It allows children to process the instructions they have received from their teachers. It helps them organize themselves and set priorities. Older students may not want to have these check-ins with parents (that’s normal!), but they should, nevertheless. Parents should establish these check-ins as regular parts of each day. Not all students thrive in a distance learning environment; some struggle with too much independence or lack of structure. These check-in routines need to be established early, before students fall behind or begin to struggle.
Take an active role in helping your children process and own their learning. In the course of a regular school day at FIS, your son or daughter engages with other students or adults dozens if not hundreds of times. These social interactions and opportunities for mediation include turning to a peer to exchange a thought or idea, participating in small or large group discussions, asking questions for clarification, collaborating on group projects, and countless other moments. While some of these social interactions will be re-created on virtual platforms, others will not. Human beings learn best when they have opportunities to process their learning with others.
Engage with your child about what they are learning. Beyond the check-ins recommended at the start and end of each day, parents should regularly circle back and engage with their children about what they are learning. However, it is important that your child owns the work; please don’t complete assignments for them, even when they are struggling.
Establish times for quiet and reflection. A challenge for families with multiple children will be how to manage the different needs, especially when the children are different ages. There may be times when siblings need to work in different rooms to avoid distraction. Parents may even experiment with noise-cancelling headphones (no music necessary!) to block out distractions.
Encourage physical activity and/or exercise. Make sure your children remember to move and exercise. This is important to their health, well-being, and to their learning. FIS’s physical education teachers will recommend activities or exercises, but it is important for parents to model and encourage exercise! Think also about how your children can help more around the house with chores or other responsibilities. Remain mindful of your child’s stress or worry. One thing is for certain: FIS will only implement this DLP if a serious emergency has occurred. Should this happen, it is imperative for parents to help their children manage the worry, anxiety, and range of emotions they may experience. Difficult though it may be, do your best not to transfer your stress or worry to your children. They will need as much normal routine as parents can provide. Be mindful of not having news channels or podcasts constantly playing during the day to ensure that there is not an overload of worrying news adding to your child’s stress levels.
Monitor how much time your child is spending online. FIS does not want its students staring at computer screens for 7-8 hours a day. We ask parents to remember that most teachers are not experts in distance learning and that it will require some trial-and-error before we find the right balance between online and offline learning experiences. Division principals or teachers will periodically check in with you to assess what you’re seeing at home and what we need to adjust. We thank you in advance for your patience and partnership! Keep your children social, but set rules around their social media interactions.
There is always excitement when FIS closes school for bad weather or snow days. If FIS implements this DLP, the initial excitement of school being closed will fade quickly when students start missing their friends, classmates, and teachers. Help your children maintain contact with friends and see them in person when circumstances permit. Please monitor your children’s social media use, especially during an extended school closure. Older students will rely more on social media to communicate with friends. Social media apps such as SnapChat, Instagram, WhatsApp, or Facebook are not official, school-sanctioned channels of communication. Remind your children to be polite, respectful, and appropriate in their communications and to represent your family’s values in their interactions with others. A student’s written words and tone can sometimes offend or cause harm to others.