Four roles parents can assume to better support their students

Parents can have significant influence over their child’s learning and development, they also have an army of allies at the ready to support their student’s growth and development at school. Decades of research support the reality that students are better equipped and more likely to succeed academically when they feel connected to the adults at school. Student connectedness is influenced by the relationships fostered between parent and teacher. Streamlining and enhancing parent-teacher interactions can result in students feeling cared about and therefore, more inclined to meet high learning and behavior expectations.

Blended learning environments in present-day education, has put family engagement center-stage and has never been more important for continuity of learning across all classroom settings.

The 2020-2021 school year will begin with continued uncertainty, an unrelenting virus, and concerns over how long COVID 19 will persist.  School leaders try to balance educating students with the health and safety of the entire school community.  As we cross into the new school year informed with state and local guidelines, months of additional knowledge, and having had time to plan what will the new school year look like?

Some scenarios include:

  • Normalcy with students full-time in their physical schools
  • Full time virtual or distance learning
  • Hybrid learning

Regardless of how the new school year looks, families will serve as critical lifelines between school, and home-based learning.  Full-time virtual or hybrid learning will require the most involvement from families and, unfortunately,  engaging parents remains a struggle for most school districts in the United States. The challenges a pandemic presents in meeting both the educational and social-emotional needs of our nation’s children only elevates this need for strengthening relationships and connections.  With Parents tasked to balance homeschooling and responsibilities of a full-time job, schools are tasked with streamlining and enhancing the parent-teacher interaction to keep families engaged and informed so they can adequately support their children.

Parents As Teachers

This school year, parents will take on multiple roles in order to meet their student’s needs. Those roles include that of Organizer, Instructor, Motivator, and Manager. Based on this,  we’ve compiled some practical suggestions for educators to share with parents in an effort to support their students in distance learning or hybrid learning models.

Plans daily schedule, lesson plans, activities; gather and collects materials, etc.

Provides one-on-one instruction; tutoring; shares educational experience with students to help them learn and work through content; constructs knowledge with student.

Motivates student to progress and to work through problems.

Keeps track of student progress; manages student’s time/schedule; discipline.

Waters, Menchaca & Borup (2014)


Plans student’s daily schedule, organizes lesson plans and activities, and ensures all materials needed are in order.

  • Establish routines —Create a flexible routine and talk with your student about how it’s working over time. Chunk days into predictable segments.
  • Create a daily plan— Look at the schedule and then identify to-do items for that day. Combine the two for a specific plan for that specific day.
  • Set up the learning space— Set up a physical location that’s dedicated to school-focused activities. Make sure it is quiet and free from distractions.
  • Set up the digital space—Ensure computers and internet connectivity are working.
  • Utilize communication tools— Your school may be using specific digital tools to share critical information and content, so be sure to get any needed assistance from the school.


Provides one-on-one instruction and subject tutoring. Shares information about their own learning experiences to support learning and constructs knowledge with the student.

  • Don’t teach–help them understand— Helping students understand is one of the more obvious remote learning tips for parents.
  • Learn to identify the barriers— Pinpoint exactly what’s happening or going wrong to uncover why your child might be struggling: When students say, ‘I don’t get it,’ the first step is to identify exactly what ‘it’ is.
  • Use the right resources—Access classroom portals or google sites provided by teachers and school staff. Know where to go for information to save time when you–or your child–need something.
  • Allow for student control— Student engagement and learning soars when students have choices in their learning.  Look for opportunities for your student to choose their own learning path.


Motivates the student to progress and work through problems.

  • Establish high expectations—Parents and educators must have balanced high expectations. Work for consistency across school and home environments.
  • Keep in mind that it’s about the child, not the work—This can be difficult for some parents to keep in mind when there is so much pressure to complete the work.
  • Encourage a growth mindset—This isn’t about what to learn or how to learn, but rather how to think about what they’re learning. Understanding that failure is acceptable and part of the learning journey.
  • Encourage self-direction— The more a student owns their learning–and ideally have voice and choice in their work–the easier and more fulfilling.
  • Be flexible—There may be times when your child isn’t able to complete something without your support. Set aside another time to work on that assignment.
  • Know that home learning cannot perfectly mimic school learning— Encourage open or unstructured playtime, loosen restrictions on screen time, and if your child seems particularly interested in a topic, find ways to dive deeper into that area.
  • Encourage joy in learning— Learning at home will be more sustainable if it feels good for all–caregivers and students.


Keeps track of student progress and manages their time/schedule.

  • Make sure all work is completed— And any work that remains incomplete is incomplete for a good reason and has a time-bound, actionable next-step.
  • Help your child build a learning network—Your school should assign some type of group work in virtual learning. Be clear about your students’ role and help connect them with their peers. Set up a reinforcement system – Using an age-appropriate method to reinforce students for completing work such as a point system.
  • Accountability— If your student is not meeting expectations have a clear plan ahead of time for fair and logical consequences.
  • Review progress— Your school should be providing you with updates on student progress on at least a weekly basis. Review progress with your student and elicit their self-perceptions. Participate in weekly teacher chats so any questions can be answered and two-way feedback provided.

To accomplish this successfully depends on each educators’ ability to provide sufficient support and information around communication, digital tools, curricula, and behavior management.  Many schools across the country are using tools like  Hero by SchoolMint district- or schoolwide. Hero allows educators to share student attendance, engagement, and behavior data with families in real-time. It is a platform for student accountability and a reinforcement system that unites all involved parties with the information they need to get students or keep students on track and learning.

Parental involvement, particularly if schools are planning to provide significant amounts of distance or virtual learning, will be critical. Aligning expectations at school and at home this new school year is as important as ever.

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