COVID-19, Counsel for Families
Updated: Feb 24, 2021
With more and more schools closing in response to the spread of COVID-19, we thought it might be helpful to put together information for families who are confronting overseeing their children’s education from home. In compiling these suggestions, we at Bennett are assuming that there will be varying degrees of ongoing support and guidance from schools around the world, some of which may not reopen for some time; likewise, many families whose assignments are cut short will not return to the school where their children’s education is interrupted.
We encourage you to think long term about your children’s education, even as you tackle the short term prospects. Right now, life as you’ve known it may have been turned upside down, and you’re naturally focused on thinking about how to continue your children’s education over the coming weeks; this chapter of their lives will pass, however, and you’ll want your children to be as prepared as possible to resume a more typical education, wherever and whenever that may be. So, as you consider your immediate options, do so in conjunction with longer-range education planning, and ask for help if you need it—from current or potential future school administrators; from teachers who know your children; from your employer and education experts. With that in mind, some guidance follows.
Before you leave your school and/or it closes:
· Speak with the school to understand what level of online support they will be providing students in the coming weeks and potentially months.
· Request a copy of your child’s transcript and current course descriptions.
· Request information on the administration of end-of-year exams, especially for older students, and if the school will continue to disseminate information as it is published by exam boards (e.g. by the International Baccalaureate Organization or others).
· If your child has been receiving SEN support by specialists, ask them to write up a description of the nature and frequency of support that could be useful to a later support person.
For those of you preparing for the possibility of “remote” or “distance” learning that may not be provided by your current school, below are some explanations and suggestions to help you wade through the many options available.
Some explanations of the differences in learning modes:
· A learning management system is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, and delivery of educational courses, training programs, or learning and development programs. There is a wide spectrum of capabilities that range from teaching that is much like the early “correspondence” classes to platforms that offer innovative iLearning ideas: interactive gaming or storytelling, formative assessment, bite-sized multi-media content that can be highly personalized.
· Asynchronous classes: This refers to the type of class delivery where students communicate and submit their work digitally but are not in “real time” with their other classmates or teacher.
· Synchronous classes: These are live interactive sessions using various audio/visual software. This format does help build community amongst the learners and teacher, but time zone differences need to be considered.
· Blended learning: This combines both online and face-to-face learning, building on the strengths of both modes. The face-to-face component of blended learning can be different, program to program, situation to situation.
· Online schools: There are now many choices of strong accredited programs. Some are affiliated with prestigious bricks and mortar schools and have the distinction of being able to offer all of the flexibility of self-paced learning within the structure of a complete school program supported by expert teachers and tutors.
· If you choose an online learning program, be sure that it is accredited by a certified accrediting agency. Many distance learning programs are not accredited, and you will want to be sure that work your child completes will be recognized by the next school he/she attends.
· Ask about the flexibility of the program: how long your child must be enrolled in order to receive “credit” and what the process is for conveying work completed to later institutions.
· Establish a regular and healthy routine for your child, once online learning begins; create a space in your home environment that will be conducive to study, and stick to a regular schedule that includes breaks and fresh air and fun, etc.
· Build in times for your child to do collaborative learning, whether it’s part of the online program you choose or something you come up with individually—discussion of a book with peers, math problem solving via Facetime or whatever it might be.
· Try to be as relaxed and cheerful as possible about the upheaval of your lives; this is a big ask, we know, but remember that children will take their cue from you as to how to respond to this new situation. If you are experiencing and conveying it as miserable and stressful, so will they; if you can somehow see this chapter as a new adventure in learning with your kids, this will help them keep it in perspective.
Wishing you well and hoping that the sun shines in the windows of your at-home classroom.
With best wishes,