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Help! My son doesn’t really mind learning remotely, but his teacher is not making it easy. Schedules for video calls change at the last minute, links to activities often don’t work, and sometimes it’s not clear what’s supposed to be done when. We’re trying to be patient and understanding, but it’s making our days more stressful and I worry about my son’s experience. What should we do?

Challenged in Chicago, IL

A photo of Caroline.

Caroline Cahuantzi

Caroline has worked in education since 2006, serving as a classroom and adult educator, teacher evaluator and coach, and school operations manager. These days, she’s EdNavigator’s resident operations and technology wizard.

Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common. Though parents heard promises that remote learning would be different and better this fall, teachers have different levels of comfort with the tools for online instruction and, for many reasons, not all schools have provided the training, support, and oversight that’s necessary.

Start by reaching out to the teacher in a collaborative, non-threatening way. A short phone call is probably better than a sternly worded email. Be empathetic, and ask questions rather than make assumptions. Explain your experience so far, including how it has affected your son’s engagement, and lay out your needs. It is perfectly reasonable to expect a clear schedule in advance, along with the appropriate links, so students can be less stressed and better prepared.

Many teachers are receptive to this type of communication. You may even learn some things you did not know—for instance, that information was being posted for students through an app you had not realized you should be checking. Be sure to walk the teacher through how you are supporting your son and ask if there is anything you could be doing differently.

However, there’s no guarantee that your first attempt will do the trick. If matters don’t improve —and this could be due to factors outside the teacher’s control—don’t hesitate to contact your principal. You have a right to know the school’s plan for ensuring that learning continues even as the bugs are fixed. Request that the principal get more involved in verifying that each teacher is getting the right information to students and families at the right time. Ask for clarity about expectations for things like assigning and grading work.

While we need to remember that educators are juggling incredible uncertainty along with the many responsibilities, we also must be mindful that most students lost ground last year when COVID-19 sent students home, and they can ill-afford a repeat. Do your best to work things out with the teacher and ask for the principal to play a bigger role if necessary.

“Be empathetic, and ask questions rather than make assumptions. Explain your experience so far, including how it has affected your son’s engagement, and lay out your needs.”

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