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Parents become teachers overnight in St. Louis area schools

April 10, 2020

It’s hard enough for parents who are suddenly in charge of their kid’s education at home. Even harder when that education is in a language they don’t necessarily speak.

By Blythe Bernhard

St. Louis Post-Dispatch 

Millions of parents started new jobs last month — as substitute teachers.

When schools shut down in mid-March to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, parents were thrust into homeschooling and teachers became online instructors overnight.


School leaders scrambled to figure out how to educate students entirely outside of classrooms.


“As a school you want to be a community anchor, and it’s hard to do that when everybody’s spread out,” said Meghan Hill, executive director of the St. Louis Language Immersion School. “But it’s bringing people together in a different way.”


A major obstacle for some is technology.

Districts including St. Louis Public Schools have surveyed families about their technology needs and started passing out tablets and laptops to students. About 14% of children nationwide lack internet access at home, according to the U.S. Department of Education. In St. Louis, 22% of families lack internet service. Some districts have outfitted school buses with Wi-Fi hot spots and sent them into neighborhoods, or told families they can use schools’ Wi-Fi connections from their parking lots.

The same teaching strategies that work in the brick-and-mortar classroom can work online, said Keeta Holmes, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at University of Missouri-St. Louis. Create a safe space where students feel comfortable and like they aren’t a guest. Let them show off their family pets or favorite toys, she said.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Ehren Schwiebert permalink
    April 28, 2020 1:00 pm

    This needs more coverage and discussion. I am an English-speaking (non-Chinese-speaking/reading/writing) parent of a 3rd grader in a dual-language MIP in Portland, Oregon. Classes have resumed and we are into week 3 of distance/online schooling from home. Our daughter’s Mandarin Immersion Program classes now consist of two 30-minute all-class sessions per week with the Chinese teacher, two 30-minute all-class sessions per week with the English teacher, and one 30-minute small group session with each of the teachers. I’m doing my best to keep her up to speed, but it’s definitely a stretch to call it “immersion” since she’s only hearing it for 90 minutes a week online instead of 3+ hours a day she had in person.

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