This post was written by NCTE member BernNadette Best-Green.
It has been a month since Governor Gavin Newsom issued California’s mandatory statewide Shelter-in-Place order due to the Covid-19 pandemic. That development prompted my school district’s decision to transition from traditional school attendance to teacher-driven remote instruction for the remainder of the current school year.
During this unchartered season of worldwide social distancing, I have gained new insights about ways that parents have begun collaborating with me to engage their students in learning. Often, when we describe another person’s participation in an event as “showing out,” we are implying that their engagement in the activity commanded attention while influencing others around them.
As my district enters our second month of teacher-driven remote instruction for our K–12 students, I am pausing to reflect on ways that parents of some of our state’s most vulnerable and socioeconomically disadvantaged youth have been “showing up and showing out” through support of their children’s education.
I provide guided instruction to my students through twice-daily online (video conference) class meetings, at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., which average 90 minutes in length.
During these sessions, we assimilate some traditional class routines through check-in and sharing before I delve into guided instruction from our curriculum. Day in and day out, I observe a myriad of ways that parents are showing up and showing out to support the students’ engagment in my instruction. Interestingly, I have noted that some of our class’s most actively engaged parents (via this new platform) are different from those who had demonstrated support for their students in the traditional ways that schools tend to privilege—volunteering in the classroom, chaperoning field trips, supervising homework and school projects, etc.
Some parents have accompanied their children on camera during part of our class meetings. They have written notes about what we’re learning and have occasionally asked clarifying questions as I teach.
Other parents sit near their students (while following along with our class) and readily chime in to offer assistance as their children formulate responses to the questions I pose. When students have experienced technical difficulties establishing and/or maintaining access to an online class meeting, parents have swooped in to troubleshoot ways to resolve the problem.
It is not lost on me that I might never have witnessed such active parental engagement from so many of my students’ parents/guardians if current circumstances pertaining to the Covid-19 pandemic had not transpired.
One fortunate outcome of the new normal that I have co-constructed with the families and students that I serve is that the insight I am gaining further humanizes a subpopulation of parents who rise to the challenge of partnering with me every day.
Parents’ critical participation is making the meaningful difference in supporting so many students as they reconnect and remain engaged in learning during unprecedented school closures around the world!
Through my praxis as a teacher, it has become important for me to build community with trusted colleagues who I can exchange support, motivation, encouragement, fresh ideas, and honest opinions with, when needed. Since my district’s transition to teacher-driven remote instruction, I find myself engaging in frequent check-ins with the knowledgeable professionals within my own circle of trusted colleagues—some of whom teach in other regions of the nation. I am finding that these intimate small group sessions have been helping me to maintain a broader perspective about the work that I do with my own students (and their parents).
A few days ago, I described my delight about how several of my scholars-in-training seem to be transforming their student profile—right before my eyes—by demonstrating increased confidence and frequent contributions to our class discussions. For example, I have begun noticing how some of our former reticent group participants have become more comfortable raising their hands and expressing their ideas (often after prompting from a visible or off-screen adult to do so).
In response, one colleague asked, “Do you mind that some of their parents are reviewing the passages or using their phones to Google (research) the content that you are teaching about and feeding the answers to their children when you review questions?” The fact of the matter is, I do not!
For me—during this time of unprecedented worldwide school closures and uncertainty about when it will be safe for traditional schooling to resume—success looks like engagement. It’s as simple as that!
On behalf of my colleagues around the world who push past our comfort zones to incorporate new technologies to deliver instruction across unfamiliar Internet-based platforms, I wish to thank all the parents (and other family members) who have assumed the critical role of collaborating with us to keep our students engaged in learning during this pandemic.
We teachers are truly grateful to each of you for responding to our never-ending stream of text messages, emails, and phone calls about how to reconnect students to school . . . remotely. We appreciate you for coaching your children as they complete and submit the lessons that we assign in their online portals, and for stepping in with the assist whenever they have trouble logging on to join our video chat group for guided instruction.
Thank you, for charging head-on toward the added responsibilities associated with keeping your children healthy, safe, and engaged in whatever form of distance learning is offered by your children’s school during this pandemic.
So parents, I say to you, in the words of 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant during his acceptance speech shout-out to the mother who raised him and assumed the critical role in supporting his eventual success, “You are the real MVP!”
BernNadette Best-Green is a veteran K–12 educator and former school administrator who currently teaches fourth-grade scholars-in-training enrolled in a Title I school in California’s Central Valley region. She has also served concurrently for the past six years as a teacher educator of teacher credential and Masters of Education degree candidates in a university-based school of education while pursuing a Ph.D. degree in education with an emphasis in language, literacy, and culture (completed in February 2020). The title of Dr. Best-Green’s doctoral dissertation is “Reframing ‘Broken English’ as ‘Counterhegemonic Linguistic Drip’: Investigating Ethnolinguistic Vitality Within My 6th-Grade Classroom.”