LA GRANDE — A simple question can help children answer the challenges they face as students in the La Grande School District’s distance learning program.
Parents learned this and much more Tuesday night, Sept. 15, during the district’s virtual town hall to show mothers and fathers how they can support their children as they take classes via the district’s new Comprehensive Distance Learning program. The school district developed the online model to educate students during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is making it impossible for the district to provide on-site classes.
Parker McKinley, a sixth-grade teacher at La Grande Middle School, encouraged parents to get their children in the proper mindset for learning each school-day morning. One way to accomplish this, he said, is to ask questions such as, “What will you be learning about today?”
This gets children thinking about school and shows their parents are interested in what they are studying.
Greenwood Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Missy Rinker acknowledged the new mode of education can be intimidating to parents. She said it helps for parents to be open minded about virtual learning and to familiarize themselves with the technology and process. She suggested parents “pop in on some of the Zoom meetings,” referring to a platform to provide livestreaming meetings and instruction.
“In unprecedented times we will find ourselves doing things differently,” Rinker said.
Although the mode of learning is different, educators participating in the virtual town hall stressed the importance of normalizing the situation as much as possible. Parents should have children treat distance learning as if they were going to a physical classroom. This includes setting up an area in the home dedicated to attending classes via CDL. Rinker said creating a study space will make it much easier for the student to focus.
McKinley agreed having a quiet work station without distractions is critical.
“That is No. 1 — it is huge,” he said.
Having a daily before-school routine also is helpful, Rinker said. She encouraged parents to set a morning schedule so children are equipped and prepared when it’s time to sit down with their computer.
“Then they are ready to go,” she said.
Anne March, a Spanish teacher at La Grande High School, said parents should establish a point person in the school district they can go to if they have any questions concerning Comprehensive Distance Learning. She said at La Grande’s middle and high schools, this person could be the teacher of their son’s or daughter’s advisory class. She also encouraged parents to contact other teachers if they have any questions.
“We are here to help,” March said. “Nobody has to do this alone.”
March and the other educators also discussed the importance of non-screen time for students when they are not attending class. Suggestions included walking around between classes, going outside when possible and pursuing hobbies when not in school.
“Encourage them to read a book,” March said.
The Spanish teacher said it is important parents don’t put too much pressure on themselves as they help their children with CDL.
“Nobody expects you to have all of the answers,” she said. “Give yourself some grace.”
March encouraged parents to show enthusiasm and optimism about Comprehensive Distance Learning because the attitude can rub off on sons and daughters.
“A positive attitude,” March said, “will help a lot.”