In our household we’ve reached a new milestone; week 9 of distance learning. An estimated 50.8 million students in America are currently in some variation of distance learning and it. is. TOUGH. If you’re finding it hard, I’m here to agree with you! But also to encourage you that it’s not impossible. My school found out around noon on March 13th that our school would physically close. We only had hours to prepare. By dismissal that same day, chromebooks were equipped for Zoom, Google Classrooms were set up, curriculum was adapted, every 3rd-5th grader had a computer to take home, and every TK-2nd grader had work packets. My heart filled with pride knowing we did everything we could to set up our kids for success in such a short amount of time. Since then, we have sent out more computers to our lower grades, guaranteed that every family has access to the internet, and developed a care corps ensuring we’re also helping to meet essential needs.
I recently came across a quote that said, “educators lose sleep over other people’s children.” Even under normal circumstances this is true. But now, more than ever. I’m fortunate to regularly communicate with all 52 of my students (2 classes) but when one is missing, it worries me. I know what our families are experiencing, because I grew up in the same neighborhood where I teach. About 78% of our families are low income and are now struggling with job loss, housing insecurity, and food insecurity. On top of those needs, parents have found themselves with additional responsibilities for their children’s education.
As a mom with two kids in two different grade levels (kinder and 4th) and teaching a completely different grade level (3rd) – here are my top 3 tips on struggles we’ve encountered during distance learning, and how we overcame them:
- Designate work spaces
Set up a designated area for you and the kids to sit and do work. It could be a desk, or something less formal like your kitchen table, patio, or even your coffee table. Just be sure it’s a quiet space where you can focus and separate from play areas, or relaxing areas like bedrooms. Trust me, you’ll need the sanctity of those spaces.
- Create a schedule
For many children, losing the structure of a school day can be overwhelming. In our setting, upper grades have about 2.5 hours of live teaching through Zoom. Meanwhile, lower grades are utilizing an application called Seesaw that is manageable for our tech loving kids. You have work to do too, so make sure the kids log on to their live sessions, and set a timer for independent work. Make sure you also include alone time, creativity breaks, unstructured play time, and time for exercise. You can also teach kids how to set their own timer to build independence and accountability.
Now more than ever, it is imperative that you build and maintain a relationship with your child’s teacher. I can guarantee that no one is more invested in your child’s success than they are. Use them as a resource for support, or extra help. Be as transparent as you can with concerns and frustrations, but please, be kind. We’re all experiencing stress with this transition, and there’s no blueprint. We are definitely troubleshooting as we go, but our priority is to be available for your family. Also, speak honestly with your child. It’s important for them to see that adults experience emotions too. The only way I was able to create such a tight classroom culture is by being honest. I’ve let my students know when I made mistakes, when I failed at something, when I’ve experienced stress/anxiety, or just been overwhelmed. Kids learn so much more than just academics from the adults around them. It’s beneficial for them to see healthy ways to cope during difficult times.
I know that the balance between work and home is even more blurred, now that the majority of us are working from home. As a mother, it’s difficult to manage lessons, videos, and posts while trying not to be distracted by kids, chores (why does laundry never end?) and fatigue so it’s safe to say distance learning is tough on adults too. There is no right or wrong way to do things. Show yourself grace; you’re trying, and that matters! Do not beat yourself up. In all honesty, I’m a teacher and there have been days my own kids haven’t shown up to virtual class. You know what’s best for your child. If they fall a little behind, it’s not the end of the world. Yes we are in the middle of global pandemic but we also find ourselves with the unique opportunity to spend more time with our children. Remind yourself, and your babies, of how powerful they are. Let’s finish this school year strong. <3