by Ma. Claire M. Guevara, MAEd
In an effort to contain the proliferation of the Covid-19 pandemic, schools around the globe have made an abrupt switch to online teaching. Jose Rizal University (JRU) was able to adjust to this new normal education set-up as it is already adopting a blended learning system from basic to higher education. Part of this new modality of learning is the increased parental involvement where parents take on new and unfamiliar roles and responsibilities as their children participate in online education. Sara Lawrence-Lighaoot (2003) wrote, “There is no more complex and tender geography than the borderlands between families and schools”. School administrators and teachers acknowledge the relevance of building relationships with children and their parents, however, mutual partnerships do not happen by accident.
The elementary school division felt the need to build a more solid relationship between the school and the parents. The division, headed by Ms. Josephine B. Culala, initiated to conduct a series of virtual parenting seminars to cultivate the sense of belongingness in the school community among the parents, pupils, and their families and to create a caring school climate. The parents of our pupils, preschool partners, and even parents abroad have been invited to participate in these virtual parenting seminars with varied topics such as, “Virtual Learning Tools for Parents”, “Teaching Values to Your Greatest Value this Pandemic”, and even “Tips on Starting an Online Business from an Expert”. Experts in the field of parenting were invited as speakers to share real-life experiences in a concrete and lucid manner. Through the mentioned seminars, the parents acquired practical hands-on ways to become more effective co-facilitators of their children’s teachers. They also gained methods of reinforcing social and emotional skills at home to improve pupils’ well-being. The seminars also cleared all the misconceptions parents to have about the effects of online learning. In addition, parents who were struggling to balance employment demands and the learners’ needs were able to cope up with the application of the strategies provided by the speakers. The best result of the virtual parenting seminars is the formation of a stronger parent-school team which has a major impact on the success of the process of education and upbringing of children. Research tells us that the learning outcomes for young learners are significantly influenced by the formation of partnerships between families and school programs. Positive student outcomes however are not the only reason to establish family outreach and engagement programs. (Eagle, 1989) (Henderson & Berla, 1994) To learn about the role of respect in relationships when the learners see the reciprocity of respectful exchanges between the parents and teachers is of paramount importance.
What exactly does a successful parent-teacher partnership look like? The virtual parenting seminars that the elementary school division delivered were able to produce a respectful and caring online class environment with pupils who are more comfortable for learning and more confident to learn. Expectations are clearly communicated and parents have a better understanding of their roles. There are also increased school-parent collaborations that enrich school programs towards healthy child development. Working together as full partners leads to educational programs that meet unique school-based needs and reflect the diversity within the school without compromising high-performance expectations and standards. Despite the apprehensions of the parents in the new educational set-up, resiliency is manifested by the parents’ mechanism in coping with the new normal education for they feel more connected and engaged. Therefore, learners feel safe and trusting of the teachers and the school community. Also, it creates networks of support, some parents volunteer to help in editing videos for school online programs while others share referrals for cheaper online school equipment like headphones, external webcam, or computer mouse and gadgets.
Megan Olivia Hall, 2013 Minnesota Teacher of the Year, in her TEDx talk presentation shared that there is one simple thing teachers can do and one simple thing parents can do to bridge the opportunity gap (achievement gap) and that is, to combine the power of parental love with the professional expertise of a devoted teacher. A small act when multiplied by hundreds of people is better than a grand heroic act, it could transform a school and save a life by getting the children across the gap.
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