‘Bring a Parent to School Week’ is usually highly anticipated by the children, parents and staff at School 21. Parents and carers are welcomed into classrooms to learn alongside their children for an hour every morning, for a week – once a term. After the lesson, parents are invited to provide teachers with warm feedback and ‘I wonder…’ questions for growth. It is a great opportunity for parents to observe excellent behaviour for learning, high quality talk and school specific pedagogies. It immediately breaks down barriers between school and home and makes communication much easier.
This year, it is more important than ever to sustain strong links between school and home – even if that cannot happen face to face. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Bring a Parent to School Week was parked and “Zoom into the Room” was launched by Primary 21 head teacher, Meg Drummond.
How was “Zoom into the Room” set up?
Teachers chose a time that was most suitable for their class and shared this with parents, alongside a Google Hangout link. Year groups chose different times throughout the today, ensuring that parents with children in different year groups could virtually visit multiple classes. All teachers were asked to teach a twenty-minute Maths Meeting, a type of maths lesson to develop the basics, (4-5 times throughout the week). Most teachers were confident with the technology and teaching on a public forum after the virtual learning they created during lockdown. Year groups planned the content collaboratively to ensure teachers that were new to the school were supported to feel confident in teaching a live lesson.
Prior to the live lessons there was some anxiety amongst staff but the team problem-solved together. The teachers were given four weeks to establish routines in their class before the first live lessons were taught. Sharing the information early, allowed teachers to find their feet in an already challenging term. Some teachers practised logging onto the meeting link, placed their iPads in different positions to see where the best angle would be and watched each other teach a Maths Meeting.
What was the reality? What were the lessons that were learnt?
During the week, “Zoom into the Room” was a huge success. Positive feedback was received from parents and children were overjoyed to see their parents in the classroom. After teaching, live teachers felt proud and even more confident in their craft. However, there were teething problems and the process became much smoother towards the end of the week.
Teachers found it difficult to start the lesson and admit parents to the Hangout simultaneously. Next time, we will give a five-minute window for parents to join and then not allow any late joiners to ensure the lesson runs as smoothly as possible. That being said, it was important that both teachers and parents were given breathing space to get used to the technology.
Where there were problems with logging in, this could cause frustration for parents and disappointment for children. However, openly sharing expectations prior to the event and communicating with parents that this was a new venture ensured understanding. If parents were not able to join on a particular day, there were other opportunities throughout the week.
In some classes, parents took part in the lesson by being asked to give feedback or even to try a maths challenge. This was particularly exciting and rewarding for the children. To ensure wider participation from parents next time, we will give them useful prompts and sentence starters prior to the event that they could use to engage in the lesson.
What was the impact?
It is clear that technology in teaching is here to stay. Launching teachers into new public spaces presents challenges but the impact on children and parents ensures that our communities will be closer than ever despite social distancing. Parents fed back that they found it incredibly useful to observe how maths is taught to their child, as methodologies have changed since they were taught at school. Some parents shared that completing homework is now much more enjoyable as they are familiar with the language their child is using. Mostly, parents were grateful to see their child happy and learning after such a long period of time out of school. The next “Zoom into the Room” will take place this half term and parents will be invited to observe and participate in ‘Shared Reading’ sessions.