Learning and Teaching at a Distance
The pandemic has certainly made it challenging for us to bring the best of who we are to what we do, especially if our method of working or performing has changed dramatically. Parents of school-aged children, students, and teachers have certainly been impacted. This week, we have a guest contributor who can share practical insights from teacher and parent perspectives for navigating these changes as good as possible. Our thanks to Moira for sharing her thoughts! Without further ado:
As we all do our best to navigate through this pandemic, I am hopeful my perspective as a public school teacher might be useful to you in some capacity. In addition to teaching since 2005, I am also the mother of two elementary-aged children. So, I am able to see this challenging situation from the perspective of a teacher and a parent.
If you asked any teachers I know why they pursued a career in education, you can bet they would not say to teach from home. Teachers are all about STUDENTS! We thrive on engaging students in the classroom with exciting, hands-on lessons. We love creating a culture of caring. Interacting with students energizes us as we focus on our goal of helping our students develop their understanding and character.
For me, March 13, 2020, was the day everything changed. Abruptly, my district informed us that we would be teaching virtually for an indefinite period. Although I saw the writing on the wall, the lack of time to process or plan was unsettling at best. I said goodbye to my students not knowing if I would even see them again in person before the end of the year. Working at a Title One school added to my concerns. I was not sure how or if my students would be provided the resources (educational and nutritional) needed while my district created a plan.
My two children came home that day with their own set of feelings and questions. As their mother, I did my best to provide assurance and stability in response to this drastic change. Adjustments were made to try to accommodate the new logistics of our lives.
Teachers and parents carry many burdens during this pandemic. With so many factors out of our control, it is a day-to-day process we struggle through to give our very best under such restricted circumstances.
Now that the first quarter of this school year is complete, I have some “take-aways” for both parents and educators from my experience. Stripping away some of the finite, complex factors in the mix, these big-picture ideas could help you narrow your focus and elevate your daily experience.
“Take-Aways” for Parents:
If you feel overwhelmed, just imagine how your child must feel! Your child has to learn a whole different set of student skills. Keep this in mind when you feel frustrated because your child logged in late to a Zoom or forgot to submit an assignment. Let your child know you appreciate his/her flexibility to adapt to a whole new way of learning. If your child is struggling, look for small things to praise. For instance, “I’m so proud of you for keeping up with your Zoom schedule. That’s a lot for a kid to remember, but you’re doing a great job!” A little love goes a long way. Some encouragement will start to lighten the burden your student may feel to do things perfectly.
Please keep in mind that, despite your loftiest goals for your child, this is not a normal school year. While you should help your child get the most out of his/her virtual school experience, balance your expectations with the reality that this experience is new and imperfect. Just as your job has changed, so has your child’s “job” as a student. Make sure your child knows you are aware of the differences—and that you are empathetic to the challenges.
If you are unsure about something, ask! Ask your child. Ask his/her teacher. Don’t settle to live in a state of worry. I have spoken to so many parents who just needed a link to a resource or a password to access their student’s grade—or just a simple clarification about an assignment. Trust me, you’ll be so relieved you took time to communicate. Whatever you can do to alleviate stress or misunderstanding is worth the effort.
Let’s be real. Life is tough right now. It’s easy to get down and discouraged. Your child feels the same way. Look for ways to celebrate the small victories! Did your child finish a long district assessment? Celebrate his/her hard work and perseverance! Did your child turn in his/her missing work before the end of the quarter? Celebrate him/her getting it done! You can even celebrate making it to Friday! Order a pizza. Play a family game. Spend one-on-one quality time with your child, and let him/her know that you are proud of these accomplishments!