Cheated. Unfair. Dreadful.
These are the emotions that bombarded my mind as I pulled out of my school’s parking lot on March 13, 2020. With my school building in my rear view mirror, I heard the radio host calmly announce that “schools are closing and moving to distance learning”.
COVID-19 had just cheated me out of my time with my school family.
How will I redeem the time that has been snatched away from me? I could have stayed in this mindset, but I learned at an early age that all things work together for my good when I trust in God. Truly, there has to be some good somewhere in all this. So, the next day, I rolled up my sleeves and began to learn how I could become an effective virtual leader. The kind of virtual leader who wouldn’t allow barriers to STOP me from connecting with my school families and supporting my school families.
COVID-19 forced me to rethink the role technology plays in parental engagement from a leadership perspective. It is common for leaders to sometimes get stuck with using traditional approaches, such as face-to-face parent-teacher conferences, PTA meetings at the school, sending home flyers and handwritten notes, and calls home. Understandably, it is hard for parents to be physically available at all times. Many parents cannot adhere to the times and constraints schools place on them due to their job schedules, lack of child care, lack of transportation, and other reasons. However, this doesn’t mean that parents don’t want to engage in their child’s education. Shame on me. Shame on educators for ever thinking it did.
Since the doors of my school have closed, tools like Google Hangout, FaceTime, and Zoom have allowed my parents to become more available for in-class activities despite being unable to physically be inside the school. My parents have attended parent meetings and parent conferences via Google Meet. I have observed them helping their children inside their homes in our virtual classrooms. Communication via email and texting has increased heavily. What are my parents trying to tell me? Do they really prefer using technology to communicate with the school? Is this a more convenient method for families? You betcha. Face-to-face meetings and handwritten notes are quickly yielding to new technologies that better meet the needs of parents.
So, the next time a parent does not show up to the school for a 7:30 parent conference, no worries. I will reach out to see if a Zoom meeting is more convenient. Or perhaps, the next time only 50 parents show up for that parent information session, I got this too! I will consider offering a virtual session to accommodate the parents that just can’t physically be there. These unprecedented times has only made me realize that I must take unprecedented approaches to allow my parents to engage in a manner that is comfortable for them.
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