Educators are just beginning to unravel the toll COVID-19 has taken on students, schools, and communities. “What impact has remote learning and social distancing had on students, and how will it affect them moving forward?” Educators and parents alike continue to plan for the unexpected, as another lockdown may be on the horizon. Shannon Karcher Ed. D with Restorative Solutions is a certified education consultant who seeks to empower local communities, restore relationships, and close the communication gap between students, teachers, and parents. Once a struggling student herself, Dr. Karcher offers timely advice on supporting students as they go back to school.
Restore damaged relationships. So many times, a family is already angry by the time they come to me. One source of contention: remote learning. In March 2020, parents were asked to be patient, and many of them were patient. However, now, many of them want to see some change, and many of them want their children back in school. If they have to use hybrid or virtual learning, they want it to be meaningful and impactful. They want to make sure their children are learning and kept engaged. We first have to rebuild the relationships between parents, students, schools, and teachers before we can move forward. Otherwise, it will be a constant cycle.
Build open lines of communication. Educators: Parents need more direction; they need a plan, transparency, and communication. Parents will be more flexible when they can be a part of the solution rather than feeling that COVID contingency plans are being done to them. Parents: Many kids feel anxiety about the school year. Some kids might need a social story to work through their concerns. Others need reassurance that sometimes a runny nose is just a runny nose. Talk to them and help them verbalize their feelings and questions even if you don’t have all the answers.
Target those gaps. I have seen several skill and learning gaps resulting from the 2020-2021 school year. Many parents are being told that their children are struggling. First, understand exactly how your child is struggling. For example, you may have been told that your child struggles with reading, but which reading skills are lacking: awareness, decoding, comprehension, fluency, or something else? Perhaps your child has difficulty writing, but which part of writing: the action or knowing what to say? Is your child typing or handwriting? Keep notes both of your conversations with teachers and your observations of your child working on these activities. With frequent educational disruptions, sometimes, the child simply hasn’t been exposed to the materials. Ask questions. Seek support. Request testing and get answers.
Know the signs. There are early signs that a child might need more support. Look for lack of engagement in school and/or behavioral changes. Does your child say they hate school, struggle to get up in the morning, or receive feedback from their teacher that they are struggling? If you have tried several solutions, but things still aren’t right, consider a Special Education (SPED) evaluation. Even if your child does not require SPED, testing sometimes picks up things that can be addressed for a better educational experience. Trust your gut and keep looking for answers.
Speak up. Families need to be empowered. There are people, including paid education consultants and parent advocates, to help you through every situation. Find out what others are going through. Talk about your concerns; don’t worry about being judged. Focus on what is best for your child and will lead them to success.
Dr. Shannon Karcher has over 19 years of experience within special education in urban, suburban and rural education. Shannon holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and Psychology from St. John Fisher College (Rochester, NY), Master’s of Education in Special Education from Roberts Wesleyan College (Rochester, NY) and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Edgewood College (Madison, WI).