Tips for Supporting Your Distance Learner

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This year is so 2020 and the Zoom servers going down on Monday was on par.

But it did get me thinking, “what’s the backup plan? Is there even one.” I have been feeling pretty lucky because since school started, everything needed for distance learning has worked for my family.

As a former teacher and school administrator, I thought I would share the ways that you can support your distance learner. Not everything will work for every family or situation, but thinking through some of these key areas can help you plan ahead and keep everyone calm when faced with any number of distance learning obstacles (like the Zoom servers going down).

Set up a learning area

It does not have to be perfect with themes changing every month and every school supply within reach. For many children that will be too distracting. But it should be a quiet area with a comfortable chair and proper lighting. Have water within reach (not where it will spill on the computer) and maybe even a blanket. It can get cold sitting there. Remember, you are not making your home into a school you are simply bringing school into your home for a few hours a day.

Know the schedule

Make sure to have a clear understanding of what the class schedule is, when school starts and stops. If you have older students with multiple classes, keep the schedule handy or better yet add it to a calendar and link any relevant information to it. I’ve taught my teens the fine art of using Google Calendar and how to put each Zoom link into it in case of an emergency.

This also means knowing your “home” schedule. Have clear morning routines, bedtimes, and non-screen times set.

Communication

Be sure you know how to reach the teacher and when. You should not be entering the “classroom” to ask your questions. You should also not be using the chat function to try and talk to the teacher while they are “in class”.

If your child does get “kicked out” of the classroom, you don’t have a printer at home, you run out of ink, the electricity goes out, or any number of issues – remain calm and email the teacher. Communication will be key, for everyone.

I bet your school or school district has set up procedures for contacting them if you are having technology issues. Know what those are and use the proper channels. Complaining on Facebook or in a text message to another mom is not going to help you.

Perspective

The last big thing to consider is keeping everything in perspective. Distance learning is not just happening to your student or your community. It is happening all over the world. Learning milestones will vary, course requirements may change, the way our children are assessed for learning will certainly change. Guess what? That is ok. Education needs an overhaul.

Are your learners happy? Healthy? Is your family bonding in new ways and having new experiences? It is critical to weigh what is important to you now. My guess is that it has changed a lot. Change is good.

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Tracy
Tracy owns Safe Spaces, a consulting and training firm that focuses on building resilient families, communities and organizations (www.sfspcs.com). She is also an Authorized Facilitator and Certified Instructor with Darkness to Light, www.d2l.org, a child sexual abuse prevention organization. Tracy grew up in northeast Ohio, and has lived in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Arizona, and Northern Virginia and has worked in the arts, in education and most recently as a Public Educator for a child abuse prevention non-profit. Her husband's job brought them to the Bay Area and there's no looking back! Tracy is mom to a 14-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son. Self-care includes getting to know her new community, having lunch with friends, pedicures, reading, cooking, crafting, and just being with her family.

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