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Sugar House Journal

What teachers are saying they need for this year to be a success

Aug 10, 2020 13h09 ● By Drew Crawford

Parents are willing to support teachers in helping their students return to school, while hoping for more structure. (Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels)

By Drew Crawford | [email protected]

With schools set to reopen in Utah this fall, many parents are nervous about what the best way forward is to help their kids return. 

The new school year will also be difficult for teachers, who have had their jobs permanently changed from COVID-19 and have to juggle new requirements with safety and technology, while trying to make sure that their students achieve learning outcomes. 

As the structure of teaching has changed, educators are trying to rally the support of parents behind them and make sure that the education of their students is a team effort. 

“Teachers need that community support right now. The things that teachers are looking for right now are emotional support. We are not making the decisions,” said a Davis District school teacher who asked to remain anonymous. 

The teacher emphasized concrete things that parents can do to provide a foundation of support.

“Donating masks to their kid’s teachers when their school starts. Masks will be needed. Clorox wipes will be needed. They can start kind of thinking about that now and having these conversations with their kids now, so that it’s not the night before school and they’re talking with their kids finally about wearing a mask.”

Annie Cowley, who works as a secretary at Uintah Elementary, feels that even though it will be hard, the most important factor behind the success of her kid’s education will be for parents and teachers to have consistent expectations that are communicated to each other. 

“For me coming back, regardless of whether it’s in person or online, it’s just making sure that these kids are learning the things that they need to learn. Fortunate for me I am able to help them and keep them on top of their homework and things.

“I guess what I’m saying is a plan of how to hold these teachers accountable, how to hold students accountable, and even parents accountable,” Cowley said, citing the importance of preparation it takes in helping her kids get ready for school. 

Cowley’s hope is that if the structure of the administrative communication changes in the Salt Lake School District that more parents will support teacher’s efforts. 

“I think Granite and Jordan did a lot better job of guiding their teachers. In Salt Lake City School District there was just no guidance,” she said. 

In order for this to be remedied, Cowley feels that there needs to be clear lesson plans communicated to all parties, and regular surveys sent out where parents can give feedback on learning.

“I think that they need to write a teaching plan or lesson plan, put it into place. This is what I’m going to do week one to three, and it needs to go to administrators, and it needs to go to parents,” Cowley said, describing a system where everyone can be held accountable. 

“If teachers were to put their lesson plans into play, maybe they bring them in a week early, they put lesson plans in place, and they put it out to parents that this is what is expected of me, and this is what I expect of you as parents,” she said.  

Cowley is eager to follow guidelines given from teachers and do her part to foster a learning environment at home that helps her kids to be successful. 

“My kids are good students mostly because of what we do at home. They know that they’re accountable to me and that homework isn’t optional,” Cowley said. 

“I’m not equipped to teach my kid AP chemistry, but I am equipped to make sure that he shows up to his classes, I am equipped to make sure that he has the resources that he needs and let him know that this is no different than going to school and class,” Cowley said. 

Cara Hall, who has a daughter that struggled with online learning last year, is nervous about the support that she will get with the hybrid model of school that has been proposed, but like Cowley, recognizes that a more structured environment can help her daughter get better grades. 

Hall, who tried unsuccessfully to help with her daughter’s education this last year, recognizes that she will be able to do well in school if her daughter can go to tutoring twice a week.

“She struggled to keep above all of her classes before the quarantine, but she would go to tutoring twice a week. Tutoring really kept her grades up. When the quarantine happened, it felt like there was no tutoring left, and then it was all on me,” Hall said.

“I think that what I could do as a parent to home school her more successfully would be if they could provide one-on-one tutoring where I can sign her up once or twice a week, that would help a student like her who just can’t do it by herself,” Hall said. 

While the rest of her kids haven’t struggled with distance learning, Hall recognizes that others do, and she is willing to provide some of the structure for kids whose parents might not be able to work from home. 

“I think right now we all need to do things that we’re not used to to help where we can,” Hall emphasized.

“I am willing to tutor other kids right now because I’m home all day. When it comes to my kids, I might reach out to their class and say, ‘If anyone wants to do a co-op of sorts where kids get together twice a week.’”

Overall, reopening plans have not fully materialized, but Hall is ready to do her part to help when school is back in session provided that there is a framework in place. 

“I’m kind of looking and waiting for a structure that I can sign up and participate in,” Hall said. “I am willing to help out. I’m not willing to be the one that creates the program to do that though.”