December 15, 2020  |  Misty LaCour, EdD

The emergence of COVID-19 has presented new challenges for everyone, including educators, parents, and students. Due to COVID-19, most schools nationwide moved to virtual instruction in the spring of 2020, and many schools maintained virtual or hybrid instruction for the start of the school year in the fall. This unprecedented change in the instructional setting presented many challenges, while also opening opportunities for educators to think critically and creatively about meeting the needs of all students.

Limited Social Interactions Cause Challenges for Distance Learning

In discussing the impact of this year’s educational changes with parents from four states, the similarities and differences in the responses were enlightening. The primary similarity in the responses was related to the lack of social interaction available to children since the onset of COVID-19. The parents shared that their children have struggled with the lack of or limited social interaction that is available on a daily basis.

With diminished social interactions, the social and emotional development of the child becomes an area of concern. As educators, we can support the social and emotional development of children by providing parents with strategies that they can implement in their home to help their child build these skills. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) provides six suggestions in “Building Social and Emotional Skills at Home” that parents can implement to create and encourage this development. These strategies suggest specific interactions within the family to facilitate the social and emotional development of the child.

Many strategies can be utilized in the home by families or in a virtual classroom setting by educators to encourage the social and emotional development of the child. An activity to engage at home or in the virtual classroom is to take virtual field trips together. By exploring and discussing educational sites throughout the world, children can gain educational content while building social connections.

The video Exploring the World and Beyond Online offers tools and tips for the family or virtual classroom to explore the world online while learning about geography, history, culture, and arts and sciences. As educators, utilizing these techniques virtually with our classrooms can ease the struggle expressed by children due to the lack of social interaction. Parents can implement these same strategies at home with their child to encourage social and emotional development as well.

Challenges of Distance Learning Differ on Socioeconomic Lines

While the struggle with social interactions was a concern shared by all parents when discussing the educational challenges of this year, one primary difference that emerged was the inequity in the educational support provided during COVID-19. When discussing the educational impacts of COVID-19 with each family from across the United States, the primary difference appeared to relate to the socioeconomic status of the family or the school that the children attended.

During an interview with Purdue Global, one parent whose child attends private school expressed that the educational impacts to her child have been minimal. The parent shared that the private school provided support throughout the year and has made the necessary modifications to meet the needs of her child. In contrast, another parent who was interviewed, and whose children attend a high-poverty public school, expressed that the school did not provide any educational support or expectations and did not meet the needs of her children until the school returned to all day in-person instruction. She shared that she has struggled to fill the gap on her own by finding educational materials and attempting to motivate her children to stay interested in education.

These differences indicate an issue with equity that has been exacerbated by COVID-19, as shared in the article “Why COVID Is Our Equity Check.” As educators, this provides us with the opportunity to hone our skills at approaching education through a lens of creative and critical thought to ensure equity of all students.

Communication and Creativity Are Key

First, every family should know that educators are here to support them. This can be as simple as a phone call, email, or text message to the family to ensure that we are communicating with the parent and the child to offer our support.

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) shares best practices for “Communicating With Students Effectively During Online Learning,” which can be applied to establishing and maintaining support for the family. 

Second, we need to provide instruction in a creative way. Particularly for schools in low socioeconomic areas, virtual classroom instruction may not be a possibility due to the lack of resources at the school and/or at home. However, instruction can still be provided virtually through creative measures such as videos.

Videos can be an effective way to support instruction outside of the classroom. Examples include Fun With Science and Reading With Your Child. By providing parents with quick videos that contain fun activities to build education skills at home, the educator is able to provide support for the family and the child while also encouraging the student’s social and emotional development.

Education for Educators

To learn more about how you can address today’s challenges of teaching students for tomorrow’s future, check out the online education degrees at Purdue Global. Or, request more information today.

About the Author

Misty LaCour, EdD

Misty LaCour is a faculty member in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Purdue Global. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of Purdue Global.

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