Motivating Your Child at Home – Distance Learning – Week 11

Motivating Your Child At Home – Part Two

It is natural that all of us – parents and children – will have our ups and downs. If your child has hit a down patch, then it might be time for you to consider (or reconsider) the tips below and how they might boost your child’s motivation. 

In this article (part two of two) we will continue to offer ideas that match teacher’s techniques from the classroom to ways you can improve motivation at home. 

Your child’s teachers constantly consider which ‘educational levers’ they can pull to make improvements in energy, motivation, and performance of their students.

Here are this week’s levers for your consideration:

 

Release the pressure

If your child is feeling pressure, ask yourself what the most important outcome is for your child’s learning that day. Do you run the risk of winning the battle (pushing your child to finish an assignment) while you lose the war (your child will be less and less motivated about distance learning, overtime)? 

Whilst teachers encourage, challenge and sometimes push children in their learning, they also know when a child has had enough. Stressed kids don’t learn, so sometimes it is best to call it a day and come back fresh the next day.

Time limits are fair and motivating – and this is how ‘real school’ works too

Setting realistic times for working can be key to helping kids stay on task. Our class periods in the elementary school are 50 minutes long and children have the ability to self regulate by moving around and getting water when they need to in order to work more effectively. They also have the motivating energy of sitting among their peers.  

  • For example with a Grade 2 student:  use a timer to set a 15 minute work session and then a 3 minute break (water, jumping jacks, quick chat) and then another 10 – 15 work session and then a longer break. 

A cautionary tip! Sometimes, when your child is doing well and is ‘on a roll’ we might be tempted to push them to work for a longer period of time.

When a normal school day ends and a child hasn’t finished their work or a fun project they still have to go home. In this way, children can sometimes leave school “on a high” and be eager to come back to school the next day to finish their work. At home, if you keep stretching the learning period into extra time you are likely to demotivate your child rather than get them excited to come back the next day.

In short: stick to the agreed time limits, even when your child is doing well! 

Help your child with the process, not the product

As the adult, you can use your best judgement about when to help your child with distance learning, and what to help them with

We recommend, when you are looking at the distance learning activities, to identify quick ways you can assist your child to get set up with a task and be ready to do the learning. 

For example, if a child needs to work with a template it might be more efficient for you to draw the template quickly, and unleash your child to the actual task (where the learning will take place). 

In this photo the adult at home can quickly draw the template required for a literacy task. This allows the student to jump into the learning rather than get frustrated and delayed by drawing up the guidelines.

For many children a big challenge they have with distance learning is setting up all the requirements for the lesson and managing themself and their time. Saving your child extra minutes, and potential frustration and errors by helping “scaffold” the task at hand might be a technique to deploy from time to time.  

Asking the right question leads to thinking and action

Child Effective Parent
“I don’t know what to do” “What do you think needs to happen?”
“I don’t get it” “Can you read me what the question says?”
“This is too hard.” “What is the first part of the activity? What do you need to do first?”

Parents – we don’t expect you to compel your child

Teachers ask students to be ready to learn and to give their learning their best shot. But when children at school are tired, sad or frustrated, teachers switch gears because they know children cannot learn when they aren’t in the ‘green zone’. 

Your child’s teacher would be troubled to learn that their students are being held to standards at home, during this disrupted time, that are higher than those of the normal classroom. When in doubt about how long your child should work, and what is reasonable for them to complete independently, ask your child’s teacher. 

Keep the conversation going

Continually finding (new) ways to make distance learning a success for each child is truly an example of adults needing to be flexible, responsive and open-minded. It is hard work! On our upcoming student conference day both the ES counsellors will be available via Zoom call to talk to parents about motivation – or anything else that is on their mind. The link and password to the Zoom will be sent next week. 

As always we are here to support.

Warmest regards, 

The UNIS ES Counseling Team

escounsellors@unishanoi.org

Kris Bezzerides (Discovery – Grade 2, kbezzerides@unishanoi.org)

Dylan Meikle (Grades 3-5, esucounsellor@unishanoi.org)

Motivating Your Child At Home – Distance Learning – Week 10

Motivating Your Child At Home – Part One

Dear Parents,

Motivation is a common topic for discussion in our community these days, so if you are wondering how you can help to continue to motivate your child at home you are certainly not alone. 

Whilst younger students are developmentally eager to please their parents and teachers, the length of time that we have already engaged in distance learning is taking a toll on the motivation levels of all learners.

This article (part one of two), will make connections between how teachers work in the classroom and teaching strategies that parents can use at home to leverage quality learning. 

Reflect to move forward

Teachers are reflective practitioners. After teaching a lesson or a unit a quality teacher will typically ask themself “what can I do differently next time to improve student learning?” Good teaching teams and schools build ways for teachers to reflect together.

As parents at home, reflecting on how distance learning is going, and making small and large changes should be expected and is not a sign of defeat! Children and schools are always changing, so the learning dynamic in your home should be flowing and changing too. If you are living with a spouse or partner then we encourage you (just like our teacher teams) to reflect on the following ideas together.

Make space for learning

There are environmental cues that help students know that it’s time to work. By now, you may have already heard that (ideally) you should create a special place for your child to do their distance learning. This provides students with some cognitive clarity around the idea that “when my body is in this space, I’m here to work”. 

If you haven’t yet set up a designated space for your child to do their desk work – give it a try. And if you have set one up, now might be the time to change it up. Variety, after all, is the spice of life, and this rings true for both the classroom and home learning environment too. 

In a regular school year, teachers frequently move their desks and tables around their classrooms. This sparks student interest and refreshes their spaces. They also use the strategy of ‘regrouping’ (where children will work in different groups, in different parts of the classroom) throughout the year. 

You should get your child enthused too: ask them where they would like to set up their “new” learning space. Have your child take some pride in the space by adding motivating (but not too distracting) items to their work area like cool pens and erasers. 

Proximity is a teaching strategy that works at home too

All teachers know this trick intuitively, and the best teachers deploy it as an intentional strategy. As the old saying goes: “keep your friends close, and your distractible student closer”!

If your child is unable to complete a distance learning task independently, because their ability to manage time is still developing, or their focus wanders, then try positioning your child in closer proximity to you.

In the classroom teachers will ‘preferentially seat’ (this sounds like we are flying in business class) students so that they are physically close to them. Teachers can then preemptively provide support if the student gets stuck and they can monitor their work output to keep energy and focus up. At home you can achieve this by seating your child in a space with you nearby to provide timely help and positive reinforcement.  

Catch and Release: not just for fishing

‘Catch and release’ is a fishing technique where caught fish are unhooked and released back into the wild. 

When you are monitoring your child’s learning at home you should seek to provide them with opportunities to come to you for help and guidance, but then try to ‘release’ them to a period of independent work. How long that period is, before you ‘catch’ them again, is dependent upon their age. This is what happens in classrooms – obviously teachers don’t sit with one child all day. Instead, they cycle through their classroom, connecting with each student, providing help and then moving on. 

If you are unsure how long your child can reasonably be expected to work independently, ask your child’s teacher on our upcoming parent/teacher conference day. 

Schedules are obvious, but overlook them at your own peril!

If possible, sit down with your children at the start of the day and co-create their schedule. Just like in their classrooms they will know what is happening that day and can provide input into the order that they complete tasks. There are many articles out there to support you with this, here is an excellent one.

A topical aside: Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton was marooned with his men on the polar ice in 1915 for 16 months. According to the New York Times, “He did not lose a single man, and one of his primary tools was routine. They had a structure every day: They did exercise, they did work, they had game time, they had mealtime. And that structure kept everybody alive. I never forgot that — the power of routine.”

Keep it upbeat and invest in levity

Our last tip for this week: and that is in normal classrooms teachers use rigor, high expectations and humor and empathy in equal measures. Don’t underestimate the power of a few jokes and a brain break along the way. 

As always we are here to support.

Warmest regards, 

The UNIS ES Counseling Team

escounsellors@unishanoi.org

Kris Bezzerides (Discovery – Grade 2, kbezzerides@unishanoi.org)

Dylan Meikle (Grades 3-5, dmeikle@unishanoi.org)

 

 

Parenting is a Learning Journey – Distance Learning – Week 9

Dear Parents,

This week UNICEF Vietnam shared with the community a webpage that provides parents with some timely tips and reminders. We thought it would be a good moment to share their resource. Here is the link:

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has upended family life around the world. School closures, working remote, physical distancing — it’s a lot to navigate for anyone, but especially for parents.” (from UNICEF) 

In the spirit that as parents we can all continue leaning, here are the strongest connections that we made. What was yours?

Dylan: “Make a schedule for you and your children that has time for structured activities as well as free time. This can help children feel more secure and better behaved.”

Comment: After our recent holiday I wasn’t sure how I was going to ‘dig any deeper’ and come back to guide the distance learning for my two children as well as continue to work full time. I decided to reinvest in structure and routine and this week has been our best week at home yet. With my two children we start the day like a school day – the girls get dressed and ready for their day – before their first Zoom call. After the call we create a schedule of all the work that they need to do (in two attractive colors, of course!) and we add little boxes for each item that they have learned to enjoy checking off. Part of the routine is that we put a limit on the time that we spend on our daily learning: all work must be done by 12 noon and then the children make themselves lunch.

Kris: “Take a pause. Feel like screaming? Give yourself a 10-second pause. Breathe in and out slowly five times. Then try to respond in a calmer way. Millions of parents say this helps – a lot!”

Comment: With so much ‘together’ time and the responsibilities mounting I can feel my voice reaching a volume that is highly undesirable by all. As a counsellor I teach students about stopping, breathing and thinking before they act. Now it’s time to hone that practice myself. When I felt myself about to yell the other day I stopped and counted to 10 and took a deep breath. It worked and I was able to get back to the task at hand in a much calmer state.

We also humbly direct you to our Week 4 letter about the importance of routines. This letter includes information, links and some self-assessment about how some basic parenting routines may set us all up for success. How have bedtimes, morning routines and your child’s levels of independence and responsibility changed during this time?

As always we are here to support.

Warmest regards, 

The UNIS ES Counselling Team

escounsellors@unishanoi.org

Kris Bezzerides (Discovery – Grade 2, kbezzerides@unishanoi.org)

Dylan Meikle (Grades 3-5, esucounsellor@unishanoi.org) 

To our UNIS Hanoi Parents: Distance Learning Veterans, and Exemplars to Parents Internationally

Dear Parents,

It’s been eight weeks. So, how are you doing?

Burnt out? Yes, some of us are.

Tired? Certainly.

Stressed out? Uh, that’s going to be a “yes” again.

As you have heard, it’s time for a well-earned, week-long break from distance learning.

Except:

Parenting doesn’t stop, and while school may pause for a week, our parenting continues. For working parents, for single parents, for all parents – next week isn’t a holiday. It is a continuation of a stressful, difficult and unprecedented time in our lives.

It is hard to contemplate how many of us, within our diverse community, are increasingly worried and anxious for our loved ones throughout the world. Worried for our children. Worried for ourselves. We will each have our stories to tell when these days are done, and we can hope that they are stories of resilience, strength and success in the face of the impact of this historical event.

As UNIS Hanoi parents, we can already make claim to the title of “Distance Learning Veteran”. If that sounds impressive, that’s because it is.

After eight weeks, we may even be ready to feel proud of how far we have come as parents and as a community.

Our students came back from their Tet breaks without a school to physically attend. Their levels of resilience, humor, acceptance and flexibility were an example to us all.

Our teachers adroitly pivoted within 24 hours of returning to work to commence our distance learning programme. As campus closures become more commonplace around the world, we are able to see in hindsight how professional that turnaround was.

But it is our parents – you all – it is what you have done to hold your families together during this time;

The cooking, cleaning, uploading to Seesaw, cancelling vacations, arranging Zoom calls, consoling, cajoling, planning, replanning, sharing computers, wiping away tears, washing hands, keeping informed, connecting with loved ones… and through it all staying hopeful and positive for your children and families.

To that we humbly say:

Good work teachers – terrific effort kids – and congratulations and commendations to our amazing UNIS Hanoi parents.

And we know you will find the strength and courage to keep doing all this and more after the April break.

If we could send you all flowers, wine, chocolate – or maybe just gift you five minutes to yourselves – we would.

As it is, we send our heartfelt respect.

Dylan Meikle & Kris Bezzerides

 

Finding Your Silver Lining  – Distance Learning Week 5

Finding Your Silver Lining

 

“[S]ome are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.” 

(Act II, Scene v of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, 1602)

Dear Elementary Parents, 

In these unsettled times of distance learning, campus closure, and disjointed family routines, our UNIS community has become more resilient through adversity. 

Our elementary teachers are inhabiting a campus bereft of children; our students endure temporary exclusion from their learning environment, they miss their peers and friends and pine for direct contact with their teachers; and our parents have continued to manage their new and unexpected roles, in which they are being asked to be everything to everyone.

All the while, we keep our eyes on our news media feeds and our minds ponder “what ifs” and “if, whens”. We remain thoughtful of and connected to our families, colleagues and friends in areas of the world that are now progressively more impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak. Our international community is traveling through tumultuous times.

Locally we have been beholden to week-by-week updates regarding our campus closure. These have morphed into something of a weekly community ritual with associated emotional upheaval as we await, anticipate and dare to hope for the return to normalcy that a campus reopening both symoolizes and literally provides us. 

Little wonder that nerves might be frayed and our individual and collective patiences are likely to be wearing thin. 

And yet…Does research unveil a silver lining? 

The challenges that our community members have faced, whether they be students, educators or parents, are not for nothing. This time is not “lost”; instead we have the opportunity to find a broader meaning from these weeks of campus closure

And if we can find it for ourselves, we can teach and model it for our children. 

As a way of reframing this experience, let’s take a look at the Human Skills Matrix, via MIT. It’s research-based, future looking and up to date. The HSM makes for interesting reading in its own right, and is highly compelling as we consider what a set of “essential non-technical skills” might look like for the day when our children mature into the workforce and seek to professionally “thrive in today’s digitally-powered organizations”.

“Resilience is a muscle. 

Flex it enough and it will take less effort to get over the emotional punches each time.”

Alecia Moore (aka Pink)

Read more on resilience via PositivePsychology.com

Many authors and researchers believe aspects of character can be strengthened (by use) just like the physical muscles in our body (take for example, the writing on ‘grit’ by Angela Duckworth).

Looking through the lens of the Human Skills Matrix, what do you notice about how campus closure has inadvertently provided you and your children with chances to flex your ‘persistence’, ‘initiative’ or ‘empathy’ muscles

How might our ‘comfort with ambiguity’ levels have been deepened in ways that will benefit us and our children later in life? Is it safe to say that our adaptability quotient has increased fourfold during this time? 

The HSM is just one way of reframing this unique period of time in a more positive light, and you may have already discovered your own silver lining through other resources or your friendships, faith, personal philosophies and/or families. We would like to hear from you and perhaps even share these stories with our community in order to bolster collective strength during this time.

We all wish for robust character development for our children, students, and indeed ourselves. Perhaps through these weeks of Covid-19 upheaval, the foundation of greatness, in many small and large ways, have been thrust upon us all? 

Warmest regards, 

The UNIS ES Counseling Team

escounsellors@unishanoi.org

 

Kris Bezzerides (Discovery – Grade 2, kbezzerides@unishanoi.org)

Dylan Meikle (Grades 3-5, esucounsellor@unishanoi.org)

Another Way for Students to Connect

As parents we often have deep, thoughtful conversations at home with our children. These chats are often a source of happiness for parents, as they allow us to appreciate our growing child’s thoughts on how they see and experience their world and self.

Sometimes, it becomes apparent that our child is dealing with an uncomfortable situation with peers at schools. In the normal excitement and hustle-bustle of school life it is possible that some students experience a negative interaction with a classmate or friend that isn’t immediately noticed by an adult.

Whilst it might be our protective instinct to offer to intervene on our child’s behalf, many parents know deep down that it is far better to teach their child to speak up and get help on their own. Naturally, building independence and confidence is important, but what can we do if our child is reluctant to speak to their teachers about their problem?

One solution offered to students in grades 3-5 at UNIS Hanoi is a special email address that students can write a message to. We know that some children prefer to write than speak for a variety of reasons, especially if they are feeling shy or unsure.

If you are eager for your child to speak up about an issue that is bothering them, whether it might be a argument with a friend that is unresolved or perhaps a more serious ongoing interpersonal concern, you can direct them to email bullyfree@unishanoi.org

Emails sent to this address are treated confidentially, and follow-up by the right faculty member is ensured.

Kindest regards,

Dylan Meikle

ES Counsellor