Tips and Tricks for Being Your Student's Learning Coach
Being a parent isn't an easy job, and requires flexibility, patience, and the ability to wear multiple hats! Many cyber charter parents also serve as their child's Learning Coach, a role that is crucial to their student's success. In this blog, we'll take a look at some tips and tricks to for being a Learning Coach!
The Learning Coach – Not a Nominal Role
What’s in a name? Not much, according to Shakespeare. After all, a “rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” right? But names, as well as titles, carry lots of meaning, and it isn’t unusual for people, especially parents, to have several. A parent is not only “mom” or “dad,” but often coach, taxi driver, counselor, cook, nurse, and cheerleader – just to name a few.
In addition to the many roles they already fulfill, PA cyber parents also have another title – the Learning Coach. Taking on the role of a Learning Coach gives parents the opportunity to be heavily involved in their child’s schooling on a day-to-day basis, a task that can be both rewarding and challenging!
What Does a Cyber School Learning Coach Do?
Although the responsibilities of a PA cyber Learning Coach will vary slightly depending on the grade level of the student and his or her familiarity with the cyber school setting, Learning Coaches across the state share similar responsibilities.
- Learning Coaches create and manage the school routine each day.
- They assist and instruct their students.
- They communicate with cyber school teachers and staff.
- They perform administrative duties.
Experienced Learning Coaches have found that implementing some practical strategies is key to accomplishing these tasks and doing their job well. Here are a few tips for making the enormous role of being a PA cyber Learning Coach a rewarding experience.
Create a Learning Space
One of the first and most important jobs of a Learning Coach is to create a learning space for their student. Although square footage and floor plans will cause learning spaces to vary, Learning Coaches should aim for a few common goals when creating a learning space.
1. Minimize distractions
No matter what the layout of a home, it is important to set up a school space where distractions can be minimized. Most students don’t associate the home environment with academic activity, especially if they aren’t accustomed to home education. Identifying possible distractions in an area of your home is a great way to evaluate if it is the best location for a learning space.
Consider the following:
- Is the area noisy?
A noisy, chaotic environment will make it difficult for your student to concentrate. Aim for an area that can be quiet for a large part of the school day.
- Is there distracting technology present?
If so, your student may have a difficult time focusing on school work. If no other area is available, consider covering the technological devices or putting them away during school hours.
- Are there non-school-related items in view?
Keep your child in mind when choosing a learning space area in your home. Are there items in view that your child finds more engaging than schoolwork? Toys? Hobby items? Sporting equipment? Video games? Remember the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” and eliminate any potential distractions from the area during the school day.
- Is the area noisy?
2. Designate an area for school supplies
Finding what you need when you need it is crucial for any job, including the job of cyber education! Storing school supplies in a specific area plays a large part in keeping the school day running smoothly.
Consider what works best in your home. Cleaning out a closet and designating it for school supplies? Purchasing a storage unit, like a cubby organizer? Re-purposing used furniture, like an entertainment center? Implementing color-coded bins? Or simply stacking crates or boxes on their sides?
Whatever method works in your space, school storage works best when supplies are:
3. Include educational resources and visuals
Just as important as eliminating distractions is including items in your student’s learning space that reinforce educational concepts and keep them engaged during the school day.
History posters, globes, math formulas, grammar reminders, or spelling tips are just a few ideas for surrounding your student with stimulating information to enhance their learning experience.
4. Keep your student in view
Avoid creating your student’s learning space in too secluded of a location in your home. Although it may seem that the isolation and privacy would enhance concentration, students can be easily distracted and lose focus if left to themselves. Arrange the learning space so that the computer screen can be facing out and your student is easily monitored.
When Learning Coaches intentionally create an environment conducive to learning, students are more likely to succeed.
Organize Routines and Schedules
According to Tools for Teaching author Dr. Fred Jones, “a classroom routine is one of a teacher’s primary labor-saving devices.” Although they require initial effort to establish, routines have a similar result for Learning Coaches.
A well-rehearsed school day routine will not only save time, but will reduce stress, increase student cooperation, and lead to more productive school days. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind when organizing the schedule for your cyber school student.
1. Don’t assume that your child knows the daily routine.
In order for routines to be effective, first, they have to be established.
Spend some time developing a school day routine with your students. Consider the following questions:
- When is wake-up time?
- When do online class sessions take place?
- When is lunchtime?
- When are break times?
- When does the school day end?
- When are chores completed?
- When do extracurricular events occur?
Once you and your students have developed a daily schedule, write it down! If you have non-readers in your home, include pictures and symbols for them to reference. Make several copies of the daily schedule and post them in visible locations – in your child’s learning space, in the kitchen, or any other area that can easily and regularly be viewed by your student.
Referencing the schedule throughout the day will not only keep your students on track, but it will communicate to them the priority and importance you have placed on their education.
2. Don’t assume that your child knows the weekly schedule.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to foster cooperation in our students is to communicate clearly – especially when it comes to schedules.
Although the school day routine will be fairly consistent, weekly schedules can vary. Sports practices or events, music lessons, medical appointments, volunteer work, or visits with friends or relatives can vary from week to week.
Spend some time before the school week begins to record all of the week’s events on a calendar. Color-coding by activity or family member can make a busy weekly schedule more readable.
Review the schedule with your family so that there are no surprises mid-week! Post a hard copy of the schedule in your home where it can easily be referenced, even if you have shared a digital version with family members.
3. Don’t assume that your student knows the teacher’s plans.
A vital part of cyber school student success is knowing and following the online teacher’s weekly or monthly plans.
As simple as it may sound, many students need support and training in this area. Learning Coaches can model proactive strategies for their students by looking ahead at the teacher’s plans. Printing the Weekly Plan or writing it down is a great resource to keep your student on track throughout the week.
Learning Coaches should review the teacher’s weekly plan with their students on a daily basis.
- Were all of the assignments completed for each class?
- Are there any projects or papers coming up that require advance preparation?
- Is there a test that requires extra review?
- Were assignments done correctly and submitted on time?
Closely monitoring your student’s completion of the teacher’s plan will not only help your student learn the class content, but also will teach them life-long preparation and organizational skills.
Apply Time Management Techniques
Most people don’t consider the stay-at-home job of being a cyber-school Learning Coach a profession. Yet, many of the tasks and challenges required of Learning Coaches each day resemble those of corporate professionals.
Resource and supply organization, team management, effective communication, and creative problem-solving abilities are skill sets needed by the professional and the Learning Coach. Such demands require excellent time management techniques for school days to be productive.
Learning Coaches can train students to manage time effectively first by leading by example. Consider the following strategies for working smart:
- Make a List
Lists are powerful! Especially when they are in writing! Spend some time the night before or early in the morning listing what needs to be accomplished that day. After creating the list, prioritize it. Aim to accomplish the most important items first.
- Use a Time Tracker
We often have a misconception of how long tasks actually take. Tasks we think will take forever often only take a few minutes. Tasks that we imagine getting done quickly often take hours. Using a time tracker worksheet or app can provide a clearer picture of how long tasks actually take so that days can be planned accurately.
- Set a Timer
Setting a timer is an effective technique for curbing procrastination and increasing focus. Learning Coaches can model this strategy for their students by applying it to their Learning Coach tasks throughout the day. Not only will Learning Coaches get more done, but they can train their students to use this method for accomplishing school work.
- Incorporate Incentives
Let’s face it. Human nature loves rewards! If you or your students have difficulty with a particular task or assignment, provide an incentive for accomplishing it! Creative incentives that are tailored to your student’s interests often work best. What does your student love? Extra playtime? Five more minutes of video games? Read aloud time with dad? Reward their hard work with what they enjoy most. The extra motivation will help them focus on assignments and do their best.
Connect with Others
Deciding to become a Learning Coach and educate your students at home often triggers the question, “But what about socialization?” It’s a valid concern. After all, connecting with others is important for everyone, including cyber-school students and their Learning Coaches.
Since cyber-school students don’t have the “built-in” socialization experience that their brick and mortar counterparts do, Learning Coaches have the opportunity to teach their students how to intentionally foster valuable relationships with others in a variety of ways.
- Regularly attend school offered outings.
School offered outings provide the chance to meet other families that share your interest in cyber education! There’s also a good chance that the families you meet at school offered outings will be in your area, making future get-togethers a possibility.
- Join a school offered club.
Many cyber schools offer student clubs to promote connection and student involvement. Joining a school club is a great way to meet others and enjoy some recreation together. At PA Virtual, there are more than 30 clubs that offer students the chance to meet with others who have similar interests!
- Participate in extracurricular activities provided by your local school district.
Cyber school students are eligible to participate in school district sports, clubs, or activities that are classified as extra-curricular. Participation in school district activities provides cyber school students the chance to connect with local peers with common interests. It also gives Learning Coaches the opportunity to get to know other parents in their area through Booster Organizations and parent committees.
- Take part in community sports and activities
Playing sports, attending community functions, and volunteering locally are great ways to meet your neighbors and build lasting friendships.
Practice Hands-On Involvement
There are so many ways Learning Coaches can help their students thrive in an online learning environment, but the foundation of this success is to include daily hands-on involvement with your student.
Such a dedicated commitment to your child’s education often involves some practice. Home education frequently requires a process of trial and error to discover what works best in your home with your family. It also involves patience - for the days that don’t go exactly according to plan! And it involves perseverance - a will and a willingness to try and to keep trying.
Fortunately, all of this hard work and investment isn’t without its rewards! With a little time, Learning Coaches gain the skills and confidence they need for this role to be not only manageable but enjoyable as well.
And Learning Coaches get to be more than just spectators in their student’s education. Learning Coaches get to be participants – learning, instructing, and experiencing an educational journey right alongside their students.
We hope you found these tips and tricks helpful. If a cyber charter school sounds like something that would benefit you and your family, we invite you to attend an online open house to learn more. At the open house, you will learn about our curriculum and teaching methods, you will get a peek inside our virtual classroom and see how it works, you’ll get a hands-on demonstration of the technology we use, and of course, you will get to meet other parents and staff here at PA Virtual Charter School. To RSVP to an upcoming open house, click here.
About the Author: Darcie Lusk is a Parent Ambassador Regional Coordinator at PA Virtual.
Note: This post was originally published in April 2021, and has been updated for accuracy of content.