A parent I know shared the following experience with her 4th grader:
Welp today was the day… whatever day we are at in this quarantine nonsense. Today broke my child and I couldn’t fix him. We had a few technical issues, assignments were posted late, specials were messed up, his one on one chat time was almost canceled (we were able to just reschedule for later in the day thank God), water got spilled on his keyboard (twice), and the weather was miserable (AGAIN); it all ended up being too much for a ten year old to handle. Instead of getting a good night’s sleep tonight to try to get ready to tackle tomorrow and whatever horrible ‘distance learning’ curve he gets thrown he was sobbing. Sobbing that he can’t finish 4th grade with his friends, sobbing that he can’t play baseball this year, sobbing that he doesn’t want to go forever without seeing his family again, sobbing because his emotions are so real and he doesn’t understand it all. Enough is enough. Let’s stop pretending like these kids aren’t going through hell with us. Let’s stop acting like this didn’t uproot everything they knew to be true. Let’s stop going through the days as if any of this is normal. This is not normal. This is breaking people. This is not okay.
Experience and Maturity
During my post-graduate schooling I took most of my classes online, and I enjoyed it, once I got used to it. However, there were times of frustration and struggle when things didn’t work right, or technology got in the way. That was as a “mature” adult. I had some tools that time and experience had deposited in my toolbox. As tech savvy as we might believe the youngsters of our day to be, they do not possess the stamina and problem-solving capacity that comes with experience and maturity. As a result, what seems like a small challenge to us as teachers can be a major frustration to our students. A link that doesn’t work, an assignment that cant be submitted, or the common loss of connection because so many are accessing the network at the same time.
What do we do about it? There are no easy answers.
Every classroom teacher who is currently having to teach from home had no intention of doing this at the start of the school year. As we faced the monumental tasks of transitioning our entire practice to a new environment, there were colossal elements to consider. Shifting directives from administration who were faced with the same challenges from state education agencies left all of us wondering how we would be able to pull this together and effectively meet the needs of our students.
Parents, who are likely not trained educators, find themselves at once, stripped of the jobs that identified them, and pushed into the position of motivating students and following up with assignments for their children. Faced with math that is different than they learned, terms that may not be familiar, and technology that doesn’t always perform, parents do the best they can, but often fall into bed feeling inadequate.
Students, like the child my friend is raising, may be navigating the realm of remote learning successfully, but when the inevitable challenge comes, how are they managing those set-backs?
Here is What I Have Found Works Best for My World
Unplug – We often encourage people to get away from screens as a regular practice, but when life revolves around the screen for remote learning and remote working, it becomes even more important to find time to unplug. Put down the devices, turn off the television, mute the music, and listen to natural sounds for a while. It might be just conversation, or simply the cricket in the yard, but disconnect from the digital daily.
Manage – Be sure that you are managing expectations and balancing that with ability and priorities. I limit assignments on purpose because I am not living in the home with my students. I don’t want them overwhelmed or frustrated because I have given them something they are not able to accomplish. If I had a student in my home, I would help them measure what is expected by the teacher with their personal ability to complete the work and with the priorities that we have established as a family. For instance, if the algebra homework is going to mean my son is on-line for an hour evey night, but my family priority dictates that we are going to unplug and gather for supper at the table, perhaps play a board game or work on a puzzle, the homework gets shelved. I believe that nearly all teachers will respect those priorities and will not penalize students, especially in response to our current situation.
Relate – We are all missing out on things. Picnics, parties, and entertainment that we would normally be enjoying, but are now not able to attend. For the children, those missed opportunities create an even greater sense of loss. As my friend noted, baseball that will not be happening, and family that cannot get together, have significant impacts on her son’s childish understanding of current life. For some, visitst to Mimi and Papa’s house–typicaly a highlight for a child–are not happening. They are missing out on being “spoiled” and that matters. So, try to relate to their feeling of loss, and be sensitive to the fact that, while it may not seem so important to you at the moment, for them it is a huge loss.
We’re in this together-sort of…
Celebrities, politicians, and athletes have all expressed that we are in this together. Each of us feels a sense of loss and an increase in anxiety as life is upended by this virus. However, you know best where you are right now, and no celebrity or other famous person can fully relate to your life in your home with your family. So, while as a global community we are indeed “in this together,” you are in your home together solely with your family. Do what works for each member in your home and your household as a whole.
A final piece of advice, don’t be afraid to reach out and find some help when you need it. There are people who can talk you through…and walk you through…some of the struggles we are encountering. Connect with people, and you may learn that there are others who have navigated the courses that you find yourself challenged with right now.