Supporting Parents - 5 Ways Principals Can Support Parents During COVID-19

Parents deserve a gold medal after this pandemic! Not only are they parenting their own children, they are now acting as a surrogate teacher as schools are closed and stay at home orders are in effect. The stressors on parents right now is at an all time high. Imagine being a parent of four kids, all different grades, in different schools, some with learning disabilities, and all needing to get on one computer at the same time. Plus, you are trying to get the household and the dogs quiet to go on your company's Zoom board meeting. Or, imagine being a single parent nurse trying to raise three kids while still working full time in the medical field.

More than ever, principals are needed to step up and lead their schools, communities, and families through these most difficult times. Research shows that parents trust us; as a result, this will provide us an opportunity to provide them the support and help they need.

Here are 5 quick ways to support parents:

Communicate - Communicating with parents right now is paramount. Listen to their needs, hear their cries, and be there for them just as much your students. I hold bi-weekly Virtual Town Hall meetings on Zoom to listen to parents, solicit questions, and work to provide supports for them. In addition, I give out my cell number to everyone, and I encourage them to text or call me anytime. Literally, every email I send out has my cell number and I encourage them to text or call anytime. I have found that many parents will text me but never call me and vice versa. Plus, I send out a Smore newsletter regularly to inform parents of important things, updates, and awesome things happening at our school. Our school uses Remind regularly to communicate and inform parents. Here are some quick and easy tools to engage parents.

  • Smore Newsletters - These are great ways to keep parents informed and engaged

  • Remind - This is one of my favorite tools to communicate with parents

  • Class Dojo - Mostly for elementary, this is an excellent tool to engage parents

Professional Learning - Why does professional learning need to be just for educators. It's time that we provide professional learning and supports for our parents. Hold a Zoom session on ways parents can help their kids with homework, share informative articles and videos, and lean on teachers to provide professional learning to parents. Teachers are often parents, they understand first hand what parents need and how to support them with this. Just last week, our school held a Virtual Town Hall meeting for parents on "How to Talk to their Teens With COVID-19." We had a number of parents come out and express how helpful the information was. Our counselor and social worker led the parents in a healthy discussion around mental health and resources for parents. We need to be intentional in educating and supporting parents during this time.

  • Apple Professional Learning - This will help parents with key digital tools for learning

  • Parent Class - Host a Zoom Parent Class on tips for parents with helping their kids with online learning. Make them topic focused so parents can join classes which resonate the most with them. For example, Helping Your Kids Build Routine, Getting Organized with Online Learning, Teaching Math and Writing, etc.

Listen - My Momma always taught me that God gave us two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much. I know now that she meant that listening is often times so much more important powerful and needed more than talking. Now's the time, more than ever, to listen to parents. Lean into the opportunity to listen to their fears, concerns, joys, aspirations, hopes, and cries for help. Be intentional about creating avenues for them to share, speak out, and for you and your Staffulty (Faculty and Staff) to listen to them. Whether it be a Virtual Town Hall Meeting that is designed only to answer questions from parents, a FB Live FAQ Session, or providing your cell number in everything you send and do to encourage parents to reach out to you, it's critical that we invest in the voice of parents. By doing this, we empower the full community of learners at our school and we positively work to improve our school through the voice of parents.

  • Virtual Town Hall - Host a Virtual Town Hall meeting to connect with parents & to listen to them

  • FB Live - So many parents are on FB so go where they are!

  • Listen More, Talk Less

Accessible - I know our job is demanding as principals but we need to be fully accessible to parents when they need us during this time. Letting parents know it's alright to contact you after regular school hours is key to being accessible. I provide my cell phone number on every communication I send home to parents to encourage them to reach out to me whenever works best for them. In addition, we intentionally schedule our Town Hall Meetings and FB live sessions in the evening when we know most parents are available. One thing I've been considering is hosting these sessions during a variety of times to support the busy schedules of parents.

  • Encourage Open Communication

  • Host Virtual Office Hours, especially in the evening, to give parents an opportunity to talk and ask questions

Focus on Equity - Be sure that you are engaging and listening to all parents, not just the parents that are vocal, well known, powerful, or active in your school. Listen and engage all parents!! This means finding ways to reach out to parents who don't have internet access, the ones that aren't tech savvy, and even tracking down parents who may be homeless and need additional supports. It's far too easy for principals only to support, connect, and communicate with the parents that have email and texting; however, we need to be strategic in reaching parents that can't access our emails, don't have phones to text, or have no internet access. How do we do this? Well, I believe it requires us to do home visits (With social distancing in place). This reminds me of Dr. Quentin Lee of Childersburg High School in Alabama. Dr. Lee shared with me, on a recent podcast episode of Lead the Way, how he visits student homes to deliver assignments, school work, and school supplies. He shared how important these home visits are as his students see that he cares about them. Be intentional in reaching all parents, not just the ones that are easy to reach. A focus on equity also requires principals and schools to support parents who need support. Provide meals, school supplies, extra supports, and hotspots to keep students engaged.

  • Hotspots for Learning - Reach out to the major cell phone carriers and cable companies as they have various avenues to support students with hotspots. I know our school got a great deal for hotspots after investigating all of the companies, a little competition can go a long way to provide supports for kids.

  • Meal & Other Supports - Consider providing meals and other life essential supplies such as toilet paper, soap, hand sanitizer, and house cleaning products.

  • Central Supply Bank On Campus - I love how one school district has a food bank and school supply mailbox outside of their school. They load up a box outside of the school with food, school supplies, and books for kids to read. The community can stop by anytime to get what they need.

Check out Dr. Ziegler's latest Book, "You Don't Need Superpowers to Be a Kid's Hero: Leading A Hero-Building School Culture"

Subscribe to Lead the Way, A Podcast for Principals hosted by Dr. Bill Ziegler

Follow Dr. Ziegler on Twitter.

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