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Former National Teacher of the Year shares advice for parents amid virtual learning

The current high school English teacher also served as the U.S. Ambassador of Education, advocating for teachers nationwide.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif — With most schools starting the year online, many families are looking for new ways to keep their kids engaged, especially after having already done virtual learning for so long.

A former National Teacher of the Year offered some tips. Sarah Brown Wessling was the 2010 National Teacher of the Year.

She went on to serve as the U.S. Ambassador of Education, advocating for teachers nationwide.

These days, the high school English teacher, and mother of three, splits her time between the classroom and making videos on the website "Prezi" helping teachers all over the world adjust to remote learning.

As for parents, Sarah’s biggest piece of advice: don't try and recreate your child's education experience, re-think it.

She advises parents to try and form a relationship with their child's teacher whether by email or Zoom.

Secondly, figure out logistics, like where and when your child will be getting their assignments, or instructional videos. That will avoid any confusion.

It is also very important to set up learning routines.

"So, what are the things you do every time it's time to learn? So, do you start by putting the devices away? Is there a specific place in your home where your child goes?" she said. 

For younger children, that could mean singing a specific song.

Other tips include giving your kids "brain breaks".

“So if students have been sitting for too long and the younger you are, the less time you can stay in one place. It doesn't have to be like you stop the learning, you go outside, you go for a walk, you come back. But it could be quick things," Sarah said.

While it's best to limit screen time, Sarah said gaming is actually one of the more useful types of screen time because it's social and strategic.

Parents shouldn't feel like they're the teacher, but rather a partner in the learning process.

“Instead of feeling like you have to have to answer as the parent, just ask the questions: tell me about what you're learning, tell me about what you're supposed to learn,” Sarah said.

Finally, it is very important to have concentrated engagement time with your child where you just ask them what they are reading and have them tell you about it.

Sarah said doing these things will not only help kids now but in the long term as well.

Watch the full Learning Curve special here:

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