Back to school is already a hectic time, but this year’s version has proven to be especially challenging as we all navigate what it’s going to look like in light of the ongoing pandemic. Some districts are going back for completely in-person instruction, some are implementing a hybrid plan and some are continuing full-time distance learning. In many cases, the decision between which of these options to go with has proven so difficult that some districts are yet to announce a schedule, even with the proposed day for return only weeks or days away.
This poses special challenges for students, teachers and parents who are trying to make plans for the year ahead. Whether it’s scheduling, supplies or deciding to set up a desk in your home or pack a backpack for your child, we all have unknowns we’d like to have figured out sooner rather than later! When it comes to uncertainty, knowing how to ask the right questions is key to moving forward and establishing strong communication to best support your child’s learning experience.
Whether online or in-person, the priorities are still the same for teachers and parents when it comes to planning for the year ahead; your child’s safety and a strong, positive learning experience for their social, academic and physical growth!
We listed some questions to ask your child’s teacher to get the year started right, especially given whatever situation your school or district has determined is best as we face COVID-19.
Questions Specific to an Online/At-Home Learning Plan
It is important to note that the online/distance learning plan is as new for most teachers as it is for students and parents. For this reason, concrete answers may not be readily available to all of these questions (but they’re nevertheless important to ask). The discussion that follows will likely help develop more readily available and better solutions than if any one parent or teacher were working to manage the challenges of distance learning alone. In a distance learning situation, parents and teachers will likely have to work together more than normal depending on the age of your child, which is all the more reason to establish open communication early with the following questions.
- What is the main thing I should focus on helping my child with while working at home?
- What are some ways I can help spark my child’s creativity at home?
- During what hours are you available if we have questions about an assignment?
- How much time should we spend on (math/reading/etc.) each day/week?
- How will assessments work in the online setting?
- What activities/timelines do you suggest for “recess” or break time from work?
- What commonly impedes successful learning in at-home environments (and how can I work to mitigate these challenges)?
- How can we best support social/emotional growth in the at-home learning setting?
- What suggestions do you have to limit screen time and still maximize learning opportunities?
Questions Specific to a Full-Time, In-Person Learning Plan
If your child’s school or district has decided to go back to full-time in-person learning, your child’s teacher is likely having to revise many of their plans to offer the best in-person learning experience possible without compromising the safety of the staff and students in the room. Simply asking about the plans and procedures they’ve put in place in order to do so (and how you can support them) will help ease any concerns you may have, and give you more time to focus on all the positives that will come with being back in the classroom setting!
- How will the classroom run differently given health/safety protocol during the pandemic?
- What can we do to support healthy practices at home?
- What structures/activities do you have planned to foster social interactions while staying safe?
- What can I do to support my child’s academic growth at home?
- What kind of questions can I ask my child to hear more details about their day at school?
- How much time should I expect my child to spend on homework?
General Questions No Matter the Learning Plan
Pandemic aside, a new school year is always a good time for questions as you and your child get to know their new teacher and class (and vice-versa). Each new year brings about new routines, structures, learning goals and expectations that all take time to learn. This list of questions will help you foster good communication with your child’s teacher early and even give them an opportunity to learn a bit more about your family in order to best support the needs of your child (as they have so many diverse needs to meet and manage)!
- What is the best way to contact you?
- What materials will my child need to succeed in the classroom/at-home, and how can I get these?
- By the end of the year, what major skills should my child be able to demonstrate?
- What are some routines you structure classroom learning around, and how can we help support them at home?
- What are some things we should keep in mind/plan for moving forward (short-term and long-term)?
- How can we help?
- Do you have any questions for us?
This isn’t an exhaustive list. Click here for more great getting-to-know-you conversation starters and here for more tips on fostering strong, productive communication with your child’s teacher early and often!
READ THIS NEXT: Help Your Kids Conquer Back-to-School Anxiety