Families need more than that. Early on, one school district in Southern California provided a road map for how to make online learning effective for teachers and families alike. Throughout the spring, David Miyashiro, the superintendent of Cajon Valley Union School District held weekly Zoom meetings with P.T.A. heads and school staff to check in on how they were feeling — about distance learning, but also, about life — and to design a reopening plan together for the fall.
“It was almost like a therapy group for parents to vent and to have someone who is caring listen,” Miyashiro said. It was also useful data collection.
In July, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that most California schools would be remote-only, Cajon Valley, which had initially planned to offer parents four options, including in-person learning, was prepared for all possibilities because they had been checking in with their community.
In a letter to parents, the district announced that it would focus on the issues parents said were most important in those weekly Zoom meetings, including live teacher-led daily instruction, personalized lessons, an emphasis on state standards using district pacing guides, physical education lessons, graded assignments, daily attendance tracking, and, finally, teacher feedback on student progress.
These are requests every parent can make: personalization, student accountability, and more feedback on where students are. But make sure that you remain kind and empathetic to your teachers as you ask for more. According to a Learning Heroes study from 2018, 71 percent of teachers report they are afraid to speak with parents about their children’s learning for fear they will be blamed for any bad news, and 51 percent also fear that parents will not believe them.
Since we all just experienced how hard it is to teach and motivate kids, let’s remember that teachers are doing this for up to 30 children, while many also have their own kids underfoot at home. They are overwhelmed, too. But with a little empathy and a commitment to our communities, we can get through this fall and beyond together.
Jenny Anderson is an award-winning journalist focused on the intersection of education, technology and parenting