I chuckled when I read the social media post from the mother who, on the first day of school at home, suspended her children. She didn’t make it through day one. (Most first-year teachers can make it 9-weeks before the onset of a nervous breakdown.) I have this picture in my mind of millions of teachers standing with their arms crossed, holding a knowing look, nodding in the affirmative and saying “mmm-hmm…not so easy is it?” I am not sure how states will calculate at-home suspension rates, but it is interesting to think about. At least we’ve finally solved that more recess problem.
It strikes me that students and their families are now in the position of driving how learning will take place, when learning will take place, where learning will take place and if learning will take place. Our role as educators is now reduced to providing content, motivation, support and expertise and to try and map a way forward through uncharted territory. Teachers are still teaching…sort of. Everything is flipped. Everything.
However, we do have what I consider to be a golden opportunity. As we redesign and reimagine the process of teaching and learning we can now, quite easily, incorporate families into the lessons, not just the instructions. Promoting family efficacy is quite simply done when we provide information to families so that they have a basic understanding of not just is what expected of their children but can take the information and actually become the teacher that they now are. Research has been done on family efficacy and its positive effects on learning for years.
Researchers often refer to this process as academic socialization. That’s a mouthful. Think of this way: When you are preparing long-distance lessons, consider setting a standard for family engagement that ensures no family will ask, what are you doing today? or what assignments do you have to complete today?, because they are already in the loop and part of the process. If you are one of those schools that has the level of technology for student to connect to synchronous learning, invite their families too. Get their feedback so that as you move through this new normal, new partnerships are formed that support better at-home learning.
Family engagement is not about doing more, it’s about doing what we already do, only doing it differently. And it seems to me that things are pretty different today than they were a week ago, so the time is right. We can be well served to use this unique situation as a way to leverage family efficacy to sustain momentum in student learning. Families, as I have said hundreds of times, are the first and most influential teachers of their children.
That influence is now 24/7.
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