Victorian schools are one week into their remote learning journey, Queenslanders are starting today and other states are yet to begin. I thought this would be a good time to check in with parents to see what their experiences of remote schooling have been so far and hopefully gain some insights to help schools further strengthen their approaches to this new world of teaching.
In order to gather some insights, I created a short survey and advertised this on various social media platforms over the weekend. The survey was aimed at Australian parents who had children in bricks and mortar schools who had recently engaged in remote schooling.
About the survey respondents
- 225 parents responded to the survey.
- 94% were Victorian, 3 % NSW, 2% QLD. WA, TAS and NT were the only states not represented in the respondents (they have not started remote schooling).
- 71% had children in government schools, 17% in catholic schools and 12% in independent schools.
- 63% had children in primary school, 35% in secondary school, 1% in special education school and 1% in TAFE/University.
In three words, describe your remote schooling experience:
I collated the responses from this question and plugged them into a word cloud generator. (You know how much I love these things!). It’s early days for this remote schooling gig (84% of respondents had just finished their first week), and many schools are only just finding their way in this new world of teaching, so there aren’t too many surprises in their responses:
It’s positive to see words such as ‘interesting,’ ‘rewarding,’ and ‘supported’ being highlighted a number of times in this word cloud. This summary really indicated the vibe of the rest of the survey- a mixture of challenge with surprise but I would say an overall theme of resilience and positivity.
I wonder how different these responses would be if I’d asked teachers instead of parents? My prediction would be that the teacher/school word cloud would be almost identical.
What have been the positives of remote schooling so far?
The positives listed by parents ranged from “there haven’t been any” to “my son having to get off his butt and bow at the beginning of his Japanese class” to “working alongside my child and watching them learn.”
Although not having to pack lunches and drive their kids to school did feature in more than one response from parents, the most commonly reported positive was learning more about their child/ren as learners. Many parents reported really enjoying the opportunity to be a fly on the wall of their child’s learning journey and learning more about their strengths and areas for improvement. This element was closely followed by parents enjoying spending more time with their child/ren and being able to be more involved in their learning.
Other comments mentioned several times included positive communication from the teacher, amount and type of support being provided by the teacher(s), independent learning skills being developed by their child/ren and the video conferencing lessons being run by teachers.
It seems there is so much potential in this space. I wonder how schools can leverage this positive parental involvement in student learning when face to face instruction resumes.
What have been the challenges of remote schooling so far?
The challenges faced by parents have been many and varied; from getting their children to listen to them, to fitting everything into a single day, to ‘wading through the information from school.’
The challenge highlighted most frequently was trying to balance work from home commitments with provision of remote learning support. This was followed by juggling the various needs of multiple children in different year levels, with different teachers or with younger siblings not yet at school. Keeping children motivated factored highly in the list of challenges, especially with a lack of routine and the allure of multiple distractions (including other websites/apps/devices/computer games).
As expected in the current climate, the challenge of social isolation and lack of connection to and time with peers is a concern for parents.
A couple of salient points for teachers emerged in the challenges section:
Teacher Communication around work requirements
Parents said they wanted more explicitness and clarity around what teachers are expecting for each task. What does a good piece of work look like? Where are the goal posts for the specific activities being set? What are teachers looking for?
Parents said they wanted more clarity around this so the students knew what to aim for and would be more motivated when completing the task. They also felt it would better enable them to support their child/ren or even provide feedback to them about the task.
Teacher availability (or perceived availablitiy)
Although parents were overwhelming supportive of how flexible teachers have been, several parents reported a lack of teacher availability as a challenge. A number of parents noted that teachers were reachable by email but felt that this was quite distant/removed and said they would much prefer more video conferencing session for students to attend to get direct support and clarity from the teacher. (This was an interesting finding as it aligned with the lessons learned from the international teachers I interviewed).
Assistance for students with additional/special needs
Almost all of the parents who listed having a child with special or additional needs listed catering for their needs as a challenge. This was true for children with a physical disability or disorders such as ADHD or ASD. Parents generally requested more support and resources to assist them to manage and support their special needs children, with some of these parents feeling as though they had been forgotten about. There were mentions of teacher aides and questions about how they could be best used by schools to provide effective and continued support in the remote schooling environment.
Supporting children with additional needs is certainly an area for teachers and schools to be conscious of in the coming weeks. One of the teachers I recently interviewed from Hong Kong (Heidi) mentioned her approach to supporting special needs (you can read about it here).
What have you learned about your child/children?
Parents were mostly full of wonder and awe when it came to the things they have learned about their children. Their ‘admiring lens’ got a strong work out here (as it should in these extraordinary circumstances).
The top responses for this question included the discovery that many children are much more resilient, adaptable and independent than their parents had expected. Unfortunately for some parents, a notable number of children were lazier, more needy and less focused than their parents had previously realised.
The word cloud of things that parents learned about their children looks like this:
I wonder how these realisations and discoveries will impact future parent/school communications once face to face schooling returns.
What have you learned about teaching?
There was an enormous number of teacher appreciation responses here. Numerous parents expressed great respect for teaching as a profession. This recognition included:
- Teachers are extremely hard working, highly skilled, dedicated, resourceful professionals.
- Teachers don’t get paid enough for what they do.
- Teachers do more than just ‘teach.’
- It is not an easy job and teachers are adaptive and flexible.
- It takes a lot of work and time.
- Teachers are incredibly dedicated & are offering high quality remote learning activities in such difficult circumstances.
- I’ve always had the utmost respect for teachers and the job they do. This experience further highlights their flexibility and commitment to the education of our kids.
- If teachers were any more agile they would be contortionists.
Other insights parents shared on what they have learned about teaching include:
- It requires patience, patience, patience.
- It’s bloody exhausting.
- Relationships are important for learner success.
- It involves explaining things twenty ways.
- It’s challenging, kids demanding your attention all the time.
- Preps consume a lot of time.
- You need to explain things multiple ways until they get it and you need to stay calm.
- It’s constant planning and adjusting to each child.
- It’s okay one on one but 28 in a class? It almost seems like a joke?
- It’s not for me.
This post covers the first half of the questions asked in my parent survey. In my next post I will be exploring parent responses to the following questions:
- What advice, suggestions and/or feedback do you have for teachers and schools about your remote schooling experience?
- What support/resources/information could improve your remote schooling experience?
- Traditionally many schools prepare student reports in term 2 of each year. What are your thoughts on this happening this year?
I encourage all schools to seek feedback from their own parent communities as to their experience in the early stages of remote schooling. I have created a sample survey for you to craft from. It is available for download from here. I’d love you to share your insights from any surveys you do!
What surprised you? What are your takeaways? What questions would you ask parents in your own school?
Share your thoughts and ideas below in the comments, or over on the Oz Lit Teacher Facebook Group.