How Teachers Can Coach Parents During COVID-19
As an educator, you’re probably used to wearing many hats. Not only do you teach, but you are also a mentor, motivational speaker, a classroom manager, and cheerleader for your students. And now, with all of the changes in teaching that COVID-19 and physical distancing have brought, most of your students’ learning is taking place in their homes. This means you probably have more opportunity to be in contact with your students’ parents.
They might be opening up about the struggles of working and parenting from home, and they are (hopefully) gaining a deeper appreciation for all the work you do to help educate their children. Because of this, you can now add being a coach to your resume of roles. Parents are looking to you for guidance and best practices as they try to navigate their “new normal.” You can help coach them by sharing some of the wisdom you have learned as an educator to help make their, and your students’ lives, a little easier during such a difficult time.
When you think of a sports coach, whether it’s one from your own school or from a professional sports league, some of the qualities that come to mind include empowering, motivating, expert, having high standards, setting boundaries when needed, holding individuals accountable when necessary, and supportive in general. As an educator, you have many of these qualities already, making you an ideal coach for supporting parents through these tough times both on an educational and relational level.
You may have already noticed that many of your students’ parents are feeling overwhelmed and intimidated at the prospect of working from home while also making sure their children are completing their schoolwork in a satisfactory manner. While helping children to learn is your world, some parents feel like fish out of water. They might feel right at home with spreadsheets and slide decks, but explaining a math concept or motivating their children to engage in their schoolwork is completely outside their comfort zone.
Luckily, they have you, because who better understands the challenges of helping students focus and stay engaged in their schoolwork than their own teachers? By offering encouraging words and support, you can empower both parents and students to rise above many challenges that come from adjusting to this new way of learning. A simple, “I know that switching to online learning has been a huge adjustment, but we can work together to figure this all out,” can go a long way to give both parents and students the confidence they need to push through the initial strangeness of online learning and find ways to embrace the new format.
Share Educational Best Practices
Education is your world, and you’ve picked up useful tips and tricks along the way. In fact, many of the things that you may take for granted and assume everyone else is already familiar with are actually your best-kept trade secrets. For example, you may use “brain break” exercises without a second thought to help your students get their excess energy out. You might choose the order of subjects covered based on when your students can best concentrate on. But parents may not have thought of these simple yet effective strategies. It’s educational best practices like these that can make a world of difference for parents, and you are a treasure trove of these helpful best practices.
Share Relational Best Practices
Don’t feel restricted to just sharing educational best practices with parents. You can also help support parents by sharing relational best practices, including sharing communication strategies you’ve learned through your work, tips for setting schedules and structuring the day, and tips for connecting with their children.
As an educator, you are a specialist who knows the perfect way to connect with students in a specific age group. Whereas parents might be baffled by their teen’s behavior, you might be able to offer some perspective and insight into their behavior and how to navigate the tricky teenage stage. Or, parents may struggle to find ways to get their children to actually sit down and do their schoolwork, but you know tried-and-true ways to set boundaries that help students sit down and focus. You may also be able to share communications strategies to help parents navigate angry outbursts and confidence struggles that your students might be experiencing as they continue to adjust to these major life changes.
Emotional and relational health is even more important in times like these, and you have a wealth of knowledge to share when it comes to the emotional health of your students. To help support parents from afar, share these helpful tips and tricks with them by email or in one-on-one communications.
Set an Example
Most importantly, it’s crucial that you practice what you preach. In other words, taking care of your own health (mental, emotional, and physical) and setting healthy boundaries with parents and students is essential to helping you thrive during this time. Doing so will help you be fully present for your students and their parents.
By taking care of your own health and needs, you are setting a healthy example for your students (and fellow teachers!) while still making sure you are in the best place you can be to help and support others. A coach can only be effective when they can be completely present for their team.
Julia Marie Hogan is a counselor in Chicago and owner of Vita Optimum Counseling & Consulting, LLC. She also leads workshops and writes on topics related to self-care, relationships, and mental health. Her book “It’s OK to Start With You” is all about the power of embracing your authentic self through self-care. She is passionate about empowering individuals to be their most authentic selves. You can find more of her writing online at juliamariehogan.com.
The opinions, representations, and statements made within this guest article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of One in Five Minds or Clarity Child Guidance Center. Any copyright remains with the author, and any liability with regard to infringement of intellectual property rights remain with them. One in Five Minds and Clarity Child Guidance Center accepts no liability for any errors, omissions, or representations.