8 Expert Tips for Parents Turned Teachers

Award-winning alumna provides her favorite processes and resources for teaching at home
Deborah Siebern-Dennis

On top of managing working at home, shopping online and keeping everyone healthy, many parents are now bearing the weight of teaching their children at home. Deborah Siebern-Dennis, B.A. ’05, a science teacher at Bode Middle School, was selected for a two-year teaching and learning project funded by the National Science Foundation in 2019. She has suggestions to make teaching at home a little easier.

Parents have had a little time teaching at home now and many are discovering the challenges of keeping their children engaged and on task. What is one of your best tips to make the day go easier?

I would recommend having a consistent structure that is similar to a classroom setup. With my experience, kids like routine and they feel most comfortable knowing what their learning day will look like with a set schedule. For example, I am currently Zooming with my students at the same time each day and I set up a science-learning schedule on Google Classroom. My students know when activities will be posted and when our interactive sessions will be. Consistency is key!  

What kind of breaks make sense? Exercise? Dancing? Drawing?

In the classroom, any brain break is good break! Since I teach middle school, my kids like to be active so we will do a cooperative activity or a student-led stretch. There is a lot of power in student choice, so I would recommend asking your child what he or she would like to do and don’t be afraid to join in on the fun! Being a goofball is fun!!  

"Technology is a great learning tool when used with direction." - Deborah Sieburn-Dennis

Any tips on tackling a student’s least favorite subject? First? Last? With rewards? 

It is all about perspective! This would be a great opportunity to take one of those content areas that your child doesn’t enjoy as much and explore the possibilities. See if you could make some real-world connections. Go outside and explore some science or reflect on this experience with writing. The possibilities are endless!    

What are your suggestions on how parents can juggle their children’s school work when they are working also?  

I would go back to the scheduling. Kids are acclimated to a daily schedule, and I would recommend setting up a daily learning routine. All of the teachers that I know are working so hard right now at creating lessons and digital learning opportunities for their students that would work great with a parent’s busy schedule. 

What’s the best plan of attack with subjects that aren’t the parent’s strong point?  

Please reach out to your child’s teacher! We are here for all of our families and I can’t tell you how many parents and students that teachers have been helping since this pandemic has started. Teachers love to teach and we miss the classroom so very much, and I’m certain that your child’s teacher would love to help out in any way that that they can.  

Can you suggest online resources that may be helpful with homework?

I like Wide Open School. I’ve also recommended a document provided by Milken Educators - I was a 2015 Milken recipient - that is full of great resources. 

Are there activities you could recommend that might be productive and/or educational when students are finished with their assigned tasks?  

I’m a big fan of Quizizz Reviews. The parents can research a topic and assign the review as homework. I create my own assessments, but it’s a great resource for formative assessment data. I would also recommend iReady if it is used at your school.    

Based on what we know about the effects of electronics - TV, gaming, etc. - what are your suggestions for limitations? And should they be used as a reward?  

Technology is a great learning tool when used with direction. I teach at a 1:1 school (one device per student) and it is so valuable right now during this digital learning time. I would recommend that parents monitor their child’s device time and explore the possibilities together. It’s also a good idea to remind their child to be a responsible digital citizen.

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Published: Apr 13, 2020