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The Parent Perspective: New norms in education

August 28, 2020
Mother homeschooling teenage boys

In the latest episode of Opportunity Thrives, a podcast committed to better supporting the needs of today’s secondary students, parents share how remote learning has impacted their lives, the lives of their students and what they anticipate for the future.  

Clearly district leaders are up against undeniable odds this school year as they navigate how to keep students safe, but still learning. This episode will be helpful for administrators to gain first-hand perspective of what parents are thinking, how they are feeling about the recent challenges, and how they would like to see districts support students this school year.  

Amy De La Hunt also joined us for the episode. She has 14- and 17-year-old boys who attend Lindbergh High School, a large school in suburban St. Louis, Missouri. The sudden jump to distance learning in the spring meant that most families in her district had to fend for themselves for the last quarter of the year. The district has promised a more defined online model this fall with two options: one fully virtual and the other with a goal of returning to in-person classes when the number of COVID-19 cases are manageably low.

Steve Savad joined us for this episode. His son Justin recently graduated from Apex Learning Virtual School (ALVS) in June. Although Justin grew up in New York City, he attended multiple boarding schools before he eventually transferred to ALVS his senior year.

 

Challenges with remote learning

Steve shared some of the challenges his son faced when attending a virtual school, but also has recommendations for others. For example, one of the challenges he shared was getting Justin into a regular cadence with his school work. This required establishing a scheduled time for schoolwork every day and staying disciplined about it. He emphasized the importance of dedicating a specific time so that the learning becomes routine.

Amy’s 14-year-old was required to use 11 different software tools throughout the course of his day. She believes that streamlining that process could make things much easier on educators, students (and their parents!).

 

Address unique student needs

Amy and Steve both shared that personalized curriculum also transforms how students are able to connect with their teachers and engage in their learning. Steve enjoyed the personalized videos that teachers would send at the start of a course, introducing themselves and encouraging students to do the same.

It’s important to understand the needs of each student and if they need more guidance. Every student is unique. Some are very independent and are able to self-manage while working remotely and others require more structure and support. They both shared the importance of fostering the diverse, individual needs of each student can make a big difference in their success.

 

Sparking curiosity and intrinsic motivation

Amy shared her belief that all children have the intrinsic motivation to learn, but sometimes the adults around them funnel them into a tightly controlled outlet. That can stifle curiosity and a student’s natural interests. 

Amy also encourages more administrators to remember the science of adolescent brain development and what students can do cognitively in their teen years. She feels that teenagers often get an underserved bad reputation. But because the period is so long, and brains are not fully developed until age 25, thinking about where students are in this magical progression, and how to best support them, is important.

 

The new norm

By virtue of the pandemic, both Amy and Steve agree that online learning certainly has become the new norm and they don’t anticipate that will change any time soon. With the right structure and prompts, Steve’s son Justin was even more productive than he would have been in the traditional classroom setting.

And Amy hopes that educators and families are able to adjust to and embrace online learning as she believes it has the potential to help all students thrive.

Listen to the full podcast episode: www.opportunitythrives.com.

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