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Online Learning Tips for Teachers and Parents

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new set of norms that now guide daily life. For children, parents, and educators in Pennsylvania and across the country, this new normal has involved a transition from physical classrooms to online learning.

When Governor Tom Wolf announced the cancellation of in-person classes for all K-12 Pennsylvania schools on Friday, March 13, Milton Hershey School swiftly transitioned to online learning the Monday after thanks to its 1:1 technology environment where every student has access to an electronic device.

With the support of teachers, parents, sponsors, houseparents, and others in the MHS community, students have adjusted well to the online environment and are now weeks into the online curriculum. Many schools have also made the move to online learning with others recently launching or planning to launch soon.

MHS Elementary School Principal Tara Valoczki has tips for educators now leading a virtual classroom experience and for parents helping their children stay engaged online.

Tips for Teachers

  1. Focus on foundational skills: Pick a skill that students are already familiar with and start your online curriculum with that. This will help children build confidence as they get comfortable using technology to do their school work.
  2. Use one platform: Choose one platform for online instruction so you don’t confuse students or their parents. A single platform will be able to meet all your needs. Examples include Google Meet, Google Classroom, and Seesaw. You just need to spend time learning the features of the tool you choose.
  3. Set realistic expectations: Just like in your physical classroom, students may still need individualized help. Not every student will complete every assignment on time without additional assistance. It’s okay for kids to need more time.
  4. Step away: It’s important to take time to step away from online learning with breaks that allow both teachers and students to mentally refresh.

A Milton Hershey School elementary student participates in virtual learning from his student home.

Valoczki also notes that it is important for teachers to build rapport with students online so they know they are supported socially and emotionally, especially since many children are experiencing increased anxiety due to the coronavirus situation.

“It’s about the positive interactions that are occurring,” Valoczki said. “Our teachers set up specific times during the day where it’s an open forum for an entire class to talk and catch up. Some classes are even doing yoga online together.”

She also encourages teachers to do simple things like remembering students’ birthdays or sharing a photo of your family’s dog to make a big impact. “Daily check-ins that are unrelated to academics are really an opportunity to focus on making sure kids are doing okay with everything going on.”

Tips for Parents/Caregivers

  1. Keep a routine: Establish a daily schedule that includes academic time, meal time, chores, playtime and outdoor time to keep children motivated, mentally engaged, and happy.
  2. Create a study space: Set up a quiet, well-lit space in your home where your child can concentrate on online learning and completing assignments.
  3. Nurture relationships: Although we all need to practice social distancing, that doesn’t mean we should become socially distant in our relationships. Encourage your child to check in with friends and family, helping them interact through phone calls and video chats. Interacting with others develops strong language skills, creativity, social intelligence, and confidence.
  4. Be patient and be kind, especially to yourself: We are all experiencing isolation, but everyone is dealing with their own issues as well, so be kind and empathic to others. Don’t forget to take care of yourself by practicing self-care. You’ll set a great example for your child on how they should treat others and themselves.

Milton Hershey School elementary principal works from home with her three children.

As a working mother of three children, Valoczki also shared insight on how she is managing working from home while caring for her children and supporting their online learning.

“For me, it’s helped to create boundaries,” she said. “Just like I’ve created specific workspaces for my kids to do their school work, I’ve also created a workspace for me. They understand that when I’m in my workspace I’m really focused on my job so they have to respect that just like I respect when they are in their workspaces.”

She also notes that it is important to step away and spend time with your children so you can recharge while focusing on the positive aspects of life.

Read More on the MHS Coronavirus Response

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