Distance learning has been happening for a few weeks or so now and parents are seeing the bugs in the system firsthand. You’re facing a lot of crisis schooling issues, parents.
From minimal oversight or control on video chats to too many apps and programs, parents are facing major crisis schooling issues. However, a lot of these have universal themes – and solutions that can help you to restore your sanity and reclaim your day.
Common Crisis Schooling Issues Parents are Facing Now + Solutions
I’ve been hearing from parents for weeks now about the struggles and challenges of crisis schooling. Many are seeing just how much work goes into teaching – the juggling of materials and standards and learning styles is a lot. But also we’re all just trying to keep a grasp on our own sanity while working from home + crisis schooling + doing the normal things we need to do to keep our families chugging along.
I’m right here with you, on both sides. As a Title I teacher, I’m trying to provide meaningful interventions to my students while respecting their workload limits and the classes already scheduled by their homeroom teachers. I’m also a parent, attempting to coach my own kids through distance learning.
I get it. It’s a lot.
Too Many Apps & Websites
Teachers are trying to cobble together a program that works for kids and meets learning standards. Which can sometimes mean that you’re bouncing between apps all the livelong day. Your kid’s active learning time is dwarfed by the time you’re spending figuring out what to do and where to do it.
As someone who also has to manage all of the apps and websites for my children plus my students, I’ve learned a few tricks over the years.
- LastPass: it’s a password storage website that uses a single sign-on to access everything you need at once. And it’s FREE in its basic form. Which is all you need. Organize each app or website into LastPass under a category like Math or Spelling. Then when you’re bouncing around online, there’s no need to remember the many usernames or passwords. It’s auto-filled for you! Download the LastPass app for your tablets and phones, too.
- Clever: ask your child’s teacher if your school has access to this glorious app. It’s a kid-friendly single sign-on that uses a QR code. Once you’re in, all the apps are there – already logged in and ready to go. Just pick the app you need right now and proceed.
- Spreadsheets: the old fashioned spreadsheet is one of my go-to problem-solvers for so many issues right now. You should see all the sheets I’ve got going, color-coded and labeled because I’m an Enneagram 6. Grab one you can edit right here!
Make a copy of my master website and app spreadsheet for FREE! Use it with LastPass to make it even easier.
Too Much Time Spent Online
I heard from a friend with a first grader spending 3-4 hours per day on the computer, doing work. Now, a lot of that time was probably spent logging in and managing which thing to use when. But also that’s way too much time spent online for a 6- or 7-year-old.
This is one of the most common crisis schooling issues parents are facing right now.
To be frank: no child should be spending more than 4-5 hours of active learning time daily right now. And that upper limit is for high school kids.
I broke down the absolute maximum time limits, and created a FREE sanity-saving schedule, to help parents.
Briefly, here’s what you need to know now about active learning time limits:
- K-2: MAX of 1ish hours daily
- 2-4: MAX of 90 min or so daily
- 4-6: MAX of 2ish hours daily
- 6-8: MAX of 2.5-3ish hours daily
- 9-12: MAX of 4-5 hours daily
If your kid is spending more time than is needed for their age or grade range, it’s time to talk to the teacher.
Send this email:
After doing some research about distance learning guidelines for this age range, I feel compelled to pull back on some of the work assigned as it exceeds those recommendations. Going forward, my family will be spending (insert recommended age-range time limits here) working through your assignments daily. Outside of this time, we will be focusing on reading and incorporating learning into everyday activities.
Thank you for understanding my decision for my family’s sanity in these unprecedented times,
Confusing Virtual Classrooms
Whether you’re having to switch between Google Classrooms and Schoology for every subject or you’ve got one platform, but it’s super confusing, virtual classrooms are one of the commos crisis schooling issues parents are dealing with right now.
You can attempt to some of those issues yourself, but (fair warning) a lot of this is out of your hands.
First, add the virtual classroom log-in info to your browser or LastPass. Then add that link to your spreadsheet. It’s not any fewer places to go, but at least the links to get there are all in one place.
Next, alert the admin to the issues you’re facing. Send this email:
We appreciate everything that you and your teachers are doing to make school work during this crisis. However, we are having issues with successfully navigating between multiple platforms and websites daily, often within one subject. Is there a way to move all teachers onto one virtual classroom platform and to increase the uniformity of apps across grade levels? These small changes would go a long way to making this unprecedented time easier for families and, likely, for teachers.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about a virtual classroom that in and of itself is disorganized. Having log-ins saved for auto-fill purposes can help with the process of switching between things, but this is a teacher-side issue and one that’s not easily solved.
Teachers all work with different levels of tech-savvy. Some have been able to quickly step into the virtual learning game and make it simple for families with organized systems. Others are new to online platforms and have just been dumped into the deep end.
If things get too overwhelming, refer to the section on too much screen time and send those emails. You should also send the email to the principal included in this section. Admin needs to know what’s happening from the family perspective right now.
Too Many Emails from School
Some teachers are sending way too much communication, to the tune of 4+ emails per day. Others have gone radio silent.
Neither of these is ideal. Ideally, you’d need one weekly email from each of your child’s primary teachers. For elementary-age kids, that’s the classroom teacher plus any support service providers they see regularly. In middle and high school, that’s one email per week from every subject plus those support providers.
Send this email to all the teachers your child sees regularly:
We are struggling to keep up with the communication from school. Every teacher is sending multiple emails per week, with over 4 emails some days! That’s a lot to manage and keep up with, as you might imagine.
Might I suggest that we all agree to use one method of communication, sent weekly to every student you teach in this class? I think that this would help parents to better see the scope of work required each week. And it would help you to cut down on clutter in your own inbox. If parents have questions, we could email you privately as needed.
Literally Zero Emails From School
One parent let me know that the teacher is not responding to her, only to her husband. Other families are getting zero communication, period.
Neither is a great situation. However, there is a simple solution.
For parents who are getting zero communication, send this email:
I feel like I’m maybe missing emails or updates from you. Could you please ensure that you are sending communications to these email addresses? (Insert your preferred emails here)
If you’re getting nothing after 48 working hours, send this email:
I have reached out to (Teacher) several times to ensure that s/he has the correct email addresses. However, I am still not getting any communication for this class. Could you please ensure that my email addresses are correct in the system?
If your spouse gets responses, but you don’t, have them send this email:
I’ve noticed that when my spouse reaches out to you, there is no response. However, when I send the same email, there is a faster turn around. I’m not sure if my spouse’s emails aren’t coming through, but we would both appreciate a timely response regardless of which parent is sending the email. We anticipate a swift change in this area.
If that doesn’t work, send this email:
We have noticed that (Teacher) only responds when (name) emails, but not when (name) emails. We are baffled by this practice and have asked for timely replies regardless of which parent is sending the email. However, no change has been made. We are writing to alert you of this issue and an attempt to virtually mediate the situation.
Not sure what emails to send when? Grab a copy of Talk to the Teacher!
Transitions & Motivation is Rough
Switching between subjects can be hard when the whole system has suddenly changed. Keeping kids motivated is also really challenging when video games or literally anything else is beckoning.
But it is possible!
To make transitions smoother, try these tips:
- Take a complete break between subjects for 15-30 minutes
- Take a break when switching between screens and pencil and paper work
- Create your own transition signal; many teachers use a bell or alarm to signal it’s time to switch
- Use a count down, like “5 more minutes of math”
- Try a timer for breaks and work times
- Use a schedule to keep days centered around a routine
Steal my sanity-saving distance learning schedule here – for FREE!
Staying motivated is also really hard right now. To keep kids ready for learning, try these ideas:
- Do the least exciting thing first and save the most exciting thing for dead last
- Swap things your child doesn’t love with activities they prefer
- Add an extra reward for meeting a working goal, like extra (whatever) for doing a whole page of math without complaint
- Use learning games websites to mix up basic subjects
Check out my favorite websites for parents!
Right now, you have full permission to do whatever makes sense for your family right now. Give rewards that motivate your child, even if it’s not something you’d normally use like dessert or screen time.
Twice the Amount of School Work
Are your kids facing twice or three times the amount of school work since distance learning started? You’re not alone!
This is another of the common crisis schooling issues parents are facing. And it’s not okay.
First, attempt to negotiate with the teacher:
I’ve noticed a significant increase in work assigned to (child) since distance learning began. Right now, in these unprecedented times, this workload is unsustainable for my child and my family. I want to respect the learning standards you’re required to meet while also preserving the delicate balance of our family. Can we chat about sensible ways to reduce the work right now or at least bring it back to “normal” levels? We are burning out very quickly!
If this doesn’t work, let them know you’ll be making the deep cuts yourself:
We will be limiting active, school-assigned learning to (time limit guideline based on age/grade) daily. Our family will attempt to complete all assignments within those limits, but ask for your understanding if some things are unable to be completed. We are all just trying to get through this and I’m making this difficult decision for the wellness of my family.
Finally, alert the principal:
We would like guidelines about how much work is being asked of students at each grade level in your school. Our child in (grade) is currently being asked to do ( teacher assigned hours of work) daily. We feel that this is unreasonable given the various expert recommendations we have found in our own research. The current workload amounts to almost twice the pre-pandemic assignments, in our estimation. Is there a way for the workload to be streamlined and reduced in order to better facilitate the mental health of teachers, parents, and students?
What About Education Plans?
IDEA and Section 504 of the ADA are not waived at the federal or state levels as of writing this. Which means they are still in effect.
Schools should be communicating with families to make needed changes to IEPs and 504 Plans. For IEPs especially, parents need to know in advance about the changes and agree to the amendments.
I get that things will need to change, and so do you. However, schools should be doing their due diligence in ensuring compliance to the spirit and letter of the law.
Get more info about talking to the teacher about IEPs
If you’re not getting anywhere with the school or they’re stonewalling you, it’s time to call in reinforcements. I’m still open during the pandemic, with 100% virtual services available right now.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the complete list of advocacy services I offer.