Illinois’ Best Teachers’ Best Tips For Parents

The 2019-2020 school year was one for the books. Between the Chicago Public School Teachers’ Strike and remote learning due to coronavirus, educators had to adapt to change and stay ahead of the inevitable learning gap – now dubbed the COVID-19 slide.

When it comes to education today, naturally, parents have a lot of questions:

Is my child where he/she needs to be?

What can we do to keep them learning?

How can my child’s social/emotional needs be addressed in such a trying time?

To answer these pressing questions, we turned to the best of the best – the 2020 recipients of the Golden Apple Award – Illinois’ most prestigious award for excellence in teaching. The award honors outstanding teachers for their roles in having lasting, positive effects on students’ lives and building stronger communities.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open with Your Child

Remind your child that we are living through unprecedented times, and we are navigating unchartered waters together. Encourage them to come to you with questions. Acknowledge that while you don’t know everything, you can learn about it together.

Jenine Wehbeh, social studies teacher at John B. Murphy Elementary School in Chicago, said: “The world is rapidly changing, these changes can be difficult to manage and it might feel like you cannot or should not openly engage in dialogue with young people at home about what is going on in the world. Do not be afraid to talk to your children about their thoughts, feelings, questions and concerns.”

Designate a Workspace

Finding and keeping a designated learning workspace at home can help students mentally differentiate when it’s time for school. Don’t use communal areas like the kitchen or living room, where they are likely to get distracted.

Mary Kovats, fifth and sixth grade reading, writing and social studies teacher at Carl von Linne School in Chicago: “Create a workspace for them free of distractions, set designated, independent reading time where they can read whatever they want. Set non-negotiable work time.”

Review Common Core Standards

To ensure all students are ready for success after high school, the Common Core State Standards establish clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do in each grade and subject, from kindergarten through 12th grade. The Common Core State Standards can be found on the Illinois State Board of Education website.

Paloma Salcedo, bilingual teacher at Brighton Park Elementary School in Chicago, said: “Understand what students are expected to learn for that grade level and what is developmentally appropriate at each age. [Parents] also need to take interest in their child’s learning and find new ways to make it engaging.”

Get Involved in the School

Through PTA, LSC, being a room parent and chaperoning field trips, schools offer a number of ways for parents to get involved with their child’s school.

Colleen McKenna, teacher of students who are deaf or hard of hearing at Salmon P. Chase Elementary School in Chicago, said: “Whether it is in person, through school communication platforms and/or through video or web conferencing, parents should get involved in ways that are most effective for them. There are positive correlations between parental involvement and student achievement, and it’s OK to know that involvement may look different for everyone.”

Build Strong Relationships with Your Child’s Teachers

Studies show that strong parent-teacher relationships are linked to greater academic achievement, motivation and positive behavioral outcomes. Arrange a get-to-know-you meeting with your child’s teacher – working hand-in-hand with them can set your child up for academic success.

Dr. Terrycita Perry, principal at Arthur Dixon Elementary School in Chicago, said: “Communicate with teachers as much as possible in regard to any changes that may be occurring in the home. When communicating this information, the teacher can better address the social, emotional and instructional need of the child. Together, the parents and teachers can navigate through instruction and provide the best instructional plan for the child. Collaboration is key!”

Turn to Online Learning Resources

Many educational companies opened up their online curriculums for free or reduced price amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, many schools can provide credentials to platforms your child’s teacher subscribes to. Popular resources among teachers include: Khan Academy, Scholastic, Epic Books, Raz-Kids, and Brain POP.

Michael Stewart, mathematics and social studies teacher at LEARN South Chicago, said: “Try using programs that give immediate support, coaching and feedback. This will allow for some independent practice.”

Create Routines

Whether remote learning continues or parents are helping kids stay academically focused during school breaks, studies show that routines help to establish structure, consistency and familiarity, leading to optimal success.

Jeremy Bartunek, general music teacher at Greenbriar School in Northbrook, said: “Plan for the month, the week, and the day, and be willing to deviate from your plan or change it as circumstances change. Also, get your work done early. Productivity drops after you’ve eaten lunch. Make time in the afternoon for being creative.”


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