PARENTS & FAMILIES NEWSLETTER
Below is the first edition of our Parents & Families newsletter for the 2020-21 school year. If you'd like to receive this monthly in your email inbox, sign up here.
I’d like to start our 2020-21 Parent & Family Newsletter with some good news: you are a wonderful caregiver for your children.
Let’s be real; no one has this figured out completely. This is new for everyone (including your child’s teachers!) and you’re doing the best you can. With that in mind, I think it’s important to remind ourselves that for those of us with children in school, we are good enough, we are trying hard enough, and that we will all make it through this.
As we transition into this new school year amidst a pandemic and a historic movement for racial justice, I’m hopeful that this newsletter will be able to zoom in and provide some practical answers to your day-to-day questions about school. Last month, we surveyed the subscribers of this monthly Parents & Families Newsletter to find out what topics we should cover in the 2020-21 school year.
Based on that feedback, this year's Parent & Family Newsletter will include three 3-month series about these topics:
- Remote Learning Tips & Tricks
- Mental Health Support for Students
- Special Education (IEPs and 504s)
To start us off this month, I’m going to answer three important questions about managing technology logistics, safe internet use, and your child’s specific needs for remote learning:
Q: How do I make sure my child is being safe online during remote schooling?
A: Start from a place of building trust and have conversations with your child early and often about what it means to be safe and productive online.
Putting it into practice:
- Create a Digital Learning Agreement with your child and use it as an opportunity to discuss expectations and build trust around remote learning (Here are samples for grades K-5 and 6-12 from Common Sense Media to get you started.)
- Work together to establish your family values for digital citizenship. Google’s Be Internet Awesome project is a great starting point with interactive games and easy-to-understand language, including:
- Share with Care
- Don’t Fall for Fake
- Secure Your Secrets
- It’s Cool to Be Kind
- When in Doubt, Talk it Out
- If your child’s device is provided by the school district, check to see what safety programs are already installed. If there aren’t any, check with your school about existing software offered or get set-up with free technology monitoring from software like Bark. Important:build trust with your student by remaining open and honest about how their online activity is being monitored.
- With technology changing faster than most of us can keep up with, it’s helpful to make sure your own knowledge is up-to-date when it comes to internet security and the software your children are using. Here are some resource to get you started:
- Privacy and Internet Safety - CommonSense Media
- Computer Security Tips - Federal Trade Commission
- Parental Controls: A Silver Lining While Parenting During A Pandemic - Family Online Safety Institute
- Resources on Internet Safety and Technology from Battle Ground Public Schools, Anacortes School District, and Bremerton School District
Q: How do I share the responsibility for supervising my child’s remote school learning with other family members and child care providers?
A: Gather all logins, passwords, schedules, and contact information in one place to share with all of your child’s caregivers. Check in with them every school day about how it went and if they had access issues. Communicate with their teacher about changes in caregiving or environment.
Putting it into practice:
- As much as possible, help your student create boundaries between home and school to support them in staying on task. Wherever they’ll be accessing classes online, work together to create a designated study area with room for their computer, school supplies, and snacks.
- Use this Student Success Checklist from NWESD (English and Spanish) to start your list of what your child needs to attend remote school every day. Write your list on a piece of paper or a whiteboard, snap a photo, and send it to all your child’s caregivers. To start, you can include:
- Student supplies
- Student logins and passwords
- Student video releases
- Student information for a childcare provider
- Parent/Family Contact Information
- Schedule technology tune-up time each week with your child - whether it’s with you or their technologically capable family member - to check in on all the software, passwords, and devices they’re using and troubleshoot any problems together. You can also use this time to check-in with your child about how they’re feeling about school this week and if they need any adjustments (see the next question!).
- Loop in their teachers by communicating proactively about when your child will be with a grandparent or childcare provider so that the teachers can be aware of the changing environment and adjust accordingly.
- Find the contact email and phone number for your school district technology support team on the district website and include it on your checklist and don’t hesitate to ask for tutorials or help - you’re not alone in feeling overwhelmed!
Q: How do I advocate for my child’s specific needs in a remote learning world?
A: Establish a relationship with your point of contact at their school early on in the school year. You don’t need to wait until things have gone wrong to reach out.
Putting it into practice:
- Identify your point of contact at school and establish a relationship. If your child has multiple teachers, this might be their counselor or an advisory teacher. You might need to keep asking to find the right person - school districts are doing their best right now, but things might still be a little messy! Even when it gets frustrating, it’s a safe bet to assume that the teachers are doing their best with a really difficult situation. Establishing a relationship one on one helps humanize you, them, and your student.
- Schedule a phone call or video chat with your point of contact early in the school year. If you can’t make it during scheduled office hours, reach out via email to get things moving. It’s okay to ask for what you need in order to stay connected with your child’s education. Find out if phone call, text, or email is the best way to reach them when you have an urgent issue.
- Be clear about your child’s needs and bring creativity to finding solutions together collaboratively. There might be resources available that you weren’t aware of or ideas that you hadn’t thought of yet to help meet their needs.
As I get my boys settled into 3rd and 5th grade, I know I’m just doing my best to keep it all together while they’re doing the same. I hope these resources are helpful to you and your family as we all navigate the current reality together.
Your experience as the caregiver for a student right now is important for legislators to hear, especially as they make decisions about education budgeting and important policies. If you’re interested in volunteering with me to share your story as an education advocate, you can reach me directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org- I’d love to know what’s on your mind.
I’ll be back next month with more tips on remote learning - let me know if there are any particular questions you have that I can help answer.
Standing with you,