Welcome to the third in our “Teaching 2e: Supporting 2e Distance Learners” blog series with tips and perspectives on how to successfully work with 2e learners during the Covid-19 pandemic. Are you a teacher? Then this series is chock full of practical ideas. Are you a parent? Review the series for yourself, since you’re likely to be more involved in your child’s education than ever; then, send the link to your child’s teachers! And, check out our downloadable flyer with even more tips and tools.
Benefits of Distance Learning for 2e Learners
By now, most parents and teachers are aware of the challenges of distance learning. But, it might surprise teachers to know that distance learning actually delivered key benefits to 2e students. When we conducted a focus group of the parents of 2e learners, they pointed out several benefits of distance learning. Whether your school is continuing distance learning or returning to the classroom, understanding these benefits can help teachers, parents and students continue to shape learning environments to better fit the needs of 2e students.
Better alignment of learning times to kids’ body clocks. Parents could shift schoolwork to times when their kids naturally had more energy. Students, especially teens and their parents, savored the ability to sleep in. Plus, without traditional school routines, kids could take more frequent breaks and move around more freely and frequently. As one parent noted, “Video lessons allowed us to create our own schedule where we could do the lessons at the time that works best for when we have attention.”
Flexibility and choice in organizing work. With distance learning, in particular asynchronous assignments, kids could work at their own pace. 2e learners could craft a schedule that addressed their challenges, such as anxiety, executive function, and difficulty with transitions. For instance, one family noted that, with asynchronous learning, they chose to focus on one course/subject per day, giving them the opportunity to minimize transitions. Kids could also determine the order in which they completed assignments. For instance, some kids prefer to get everything done early in the day when they have energy, while others like to do their challenge area first and have the reward of their favorite subject waiting for them. And, without the need to follow a traditional school schedule, parents and students could work together to address any struggles as they arose.
Ability to tailor learning to kids’ interests, abilities, and pace. Without the need to conform strictly to classroom norms and pacing, parents and students felt more empowered to work with teachers to tweak assignments to align to student’s interests and abilities. Many teachers gave more permission than is typical to adjust projects. One parent appreciated that her child’s teacher allowed her child to skip Zoom meetings for corrections and review sessions when the child had already shown mastery of the content. Another parent said, “When I found where my son needed help, I could go to find material in that area that appealed to his interests. For example, he struggles with writing so I found some Pokemon writing sheets that were appealing to him and allowed him to practice his writing.” These are important strategies to continue for 2e children. Also, some children found they could complete their schoolwork in much less time without the structures of school. One parent observed, “My child had a lot more free time and yet I think learned just as much.” This gave kids extra time to play, create projects, spend time with their families, work on learning life skills (such as biking, cooking, home care), and, for many, read their favorite books. Teachers may consider offering suggestions for projects or resources to extend students’ learning in their areas of interest. Schools can also offer optional extracurricular activities or extension projects such as “Genius Hour.” Or, for 2e students who don’t have strong home support systems, it’s important for school districts to consider relationships with local community organizations to help keep kids engaged in learning and growing.
Opportunities to deepen parent/teacher relationships. With their children suddenly learning from home, parents were unexpectedly forced into new roles. They experienced children’s educational struggles and successes firsthand, gaining a deeper understanding of their children’s learning styles and preferences. Moving into the new school year, parents are a huge source of deep information about their children and will continue to be so as they provide the scaffolding for learning at home.
Understanding the benefits of distance learning that many 2e learners experienced can help teachers and parents shape effective learning environments regardless of what the future may hold.
P.S. Special thanks to the REEL parents who contributed their time and insights to help create bridges between themselves and teachers in support of 2e learners everywhere. And to the teachers who give so much of themselves in service of their students.