Needless to say, parents play an important role in influencing a student’s motivation and attitude about school. They should know what and how their student is doing – in any schooling environment. In a distance learning environment, they serve as a guide and tutor. And they can provide eyes and ears on their students that you don’t have from afar. They need to know what an important role they have and that you view them as part of the team.
Developing a communication line with your parents is a good starting point. Provide them the tools to check on their student. Ensure they know how to check their student’s gradebook and know how to reach you if needed. Develop a guide on how to check grades and find feedback on assignments and send it out to your parents.
Just as you need to check in on your students on a regular basis, recommend parents check in with students on a weekly basis at a minimum, regardless of the student’s level of performance. This sets up an understanding between the student and parent that the parent is making sure the student is progressing. For students that are getting all of their work done, doing well in classes or showing improvement, this provides a regular time to give the student much needed positive reinforcement. And if a student isn’t doing the work, the parent will see that quickly and can develop a plan before the students gets severely behind or becomes an attendance issue.
I can’t tell you how many times as a virtual high school administrator that I have called a parent and asked them about their student’s excessive absences. I would start the conversation asking if everything is okay since their student had been absent a lot and the parent would say, “I ask him every night and he said he did all of his work.” I did not like breaking the news at that point that the student hadn’t been doing anything. Making sure that the parent knows how to check work and has a regularly planned time to review helps to avoid these awkward situations.
Just like your students cross a spectrum of abilities, parent involvement will vary as well. Some enjoy working with their students while others don’t want to go near a computer. Some will answer their phone or return your calls right away; others will be completely missing in action. However, I find that no matter where the parent is coming from, they genuinely appreciate my outreach. I learned from one colleague to try to start every conversation with a parent with a positive or a thank you, even when calling about disciplinary issues, and this always started conversations on a good path.
When you view your parents as part of your team, they will sense it and appreciate it. When you show you care about their child, they will respond in kind.
Team Parent Checklist
Here’s an article about parent involvement written by James Comer and Norris Haynes, Professors at Yale Child Study Center, and published by the George Lucas Educational Foundation: