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Working Together to Support Distance Learning

In this Transformational Leaders Spotlight, TFA alum Kristin McRell Foght shares how parents and teachers can support kids while they're learning remotely. 

May 26, 2020

Kristin McRell Foght

Kristin McRell Foght (Greater New Orleans '09) applied for Teach for America after earning an education degree from Temple University. She was hired as a kindergarten teacher at New Orleans’ Sylvanie Williams College Prep. She spent 10 years in the city as a teacher and then a leader before moving on to a role as a trainer. During Kristin’s time working with ReNEW Schools, she trained leaders and teachers in a variety of New Orleans schools.

She took time off to be with her children but realized how much she missed education, and now works in a variety of capacities in the education field. Her blog boymommadrama offers ideas for “mom schooling” based on her classroom experience. She also writes case studies for Kickboard, a distance-learning tech company started by fellow TFA alumna Jennifer Schnidman (Mississippi Delta '06). In addition, Kristin teaches daily for VIPKid, an online platform for young students in China.

Kristin believes distance learning is crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic, and schools must be clear about the type of distance learning that they want to engage in.

“We need to make sure we’re following through with our expectations of kids,” Kristin says. "Schools should implement a follow-up loop with families with feedback on work products and phone calls to check on students to answer questions and provide additional support outside of the digital learning platform they are using with their class."

She says parents also have a critical role in distance learning, creating a structure that works for the entire family, especially those with kids of different ages. Parents need to understand the common core standards, which they’re often unfamiliar with. Google and YouTube can be helpful.

Equally important, Kristin says, is balancing the workload for children.

“A five-year-old should not be sitting for four hours doing work. Administrators should communicate this to parents, so they understand realistic expectations on learning at home,” Kristin says. “Parents need to take a break if they feel their child is getting overworked.”

She recommends going outside, watching a video, or doing something fun together. According to Kristin, it’s important to take the opportunity when you’re not doing schoolwork to create teachable moments.

What’s next for Kristin? She is preparing to launch a YouTube channel with education and teaching videos on subjects like morning circles, read-alouds, and other fun learning games she uses with her own children.

“We need to share ideas and collectively work together, because teachers work better together. Our entire nation has a time to pause right now, and we can actually explore the things we can do better for kids that don’t necessarily require sitting in a building to accomplish,” Kristin says.

The Teach For America Greater New Orleans Transformational Leaders series has been made possible through the generous support of Entergy, who has been a leader in supporting education and helping Teach For America bring essential educators and leaders to Greater New Orleans since 2001. To learn more, visit www.entergy.com.