I’m sitting here right now trying to navigate the new distance learning that so many of us are using at the moment. As a mom, I’m figuring out how to teach my little one for the next month (or two or three). As an educator, I’m talking to a lot of teachers about how to best facilitate remote learning for students we won’t see for an extended period of time. Here’s some advice for parents and teachers during the COVID-19 distance learning period.
For parents during distance learning:
1. It’s okay if you don’t feel like you have it all together yet. (Or at all during this time).
I’ve seen the color-coded schedule charts all over social media. As much as I love organization and pretty charts, I know that this isn’t the best way to go for my kiddo. Here’s why:
The kids are already stressed out.
Their everyday lives have been disrupted just as much as ours. They can’t see their friends, their teachers, or play at the park. They’re hearing scary news, being separated from people, and missing the best part of the school year.
Yes, a schedule is great. We are going to have a set time to get up, eat, and shower just like normal. We will have set silent reading time. We’ve downloaded some audio books so he can do a “read-aloud” period on his own. We will definitely have a loose schedule, but I’m planning to let my son’s needs dictate what we will do.
If you need to work from home and you suddenly find yourself teaching your own children, don’t freak out! Look to your teachers for guidance, provide the necessary practice to keep kids on track, and know that all kids everywhere will be in the same situation when we go back in the fall. Teachers are masters at taking students where they are and helping them get better and stronger, so don’t feel the need to run out and find a ton of work for your kids to do.Take care of your own work, and if you can provide some structured reading time and help kids work on some schoolwork each day, that’s great.
2. You do NOT need to do school for 8 hours each day.
Please don’t do this! A large part of the day for little ones is lunch, recess, social time, transition time, and silent work time. A teacher is often teaching 20+ kids, so there is definitely time built in to support individual needs. If you are home with 2-3 kids, the teacher-student ratio means you’ll get more done in less time. They don’t need to sit still for 8 hours doing worksheets. They’ll burn out fast and you’ll be irritated, meaning they won’t make much progress anyways.
Even high schoolers don’t sit all day and do page after page of written work. There are passing periods, lunch, and elective classes. Even during class time, there will be discussion time, individual work time, and activities that are not all worksheet based.
3. A lot of everyday activities can be educational.
Instead of 50 math worksheets, we are playing board games for part of the learning time. It’s much more fun and there is still a lot of learning happening.
I’m also taking this time to teach him more life skills that aren’t part of his chores list like baking, gardening, and laundry. We’ve made a lot of new recipes, cleaned out the garden beds, and done some fix-ups around the house. It’s not a bad idea to teach older kids finance skills like balancing a checking account (even though it’s mostly online now).
4. You can provide enrichment or extra help as needed – but it’s not necessary!
You can support your child’s teacher by giving your child a structured time and a quiet place to do the activities he/she sends home. If you know your child is struggling in an area, you can definitely support the learning with supplemental activities. If your child is doing well, adding some fun enrichment activities like art, music, or science experiments are a lot of fun – but not necessary if you are stressed. 😉
5. The most important thing right now is your child’s emotional well-being.
Yes, you don’t want your child to get behind. I know we have to have a sense of purpose, and I myself love to make lists and accomplish tasks. I also know that my child might not go back to school for the rest of the year, that he won’t see teachers and friends, and that the news can be really scary. We are just at the beginning of this period, and I anticipate it getting pretty boring for him very soon.
Schools just about everywhere are cancelled, so kids from all over will be missing school. It’s great to keep your child learning, but it doesn’t have to be the main focus of each day. Play with them, love them, and hug them a lot. Read to them or with them. Find fun things online to look up and learn about. Do the recommended activities from the teacher and don’t stress if you don’t understand the new math. (I am constantly confused by it!)
Just know that older kids will remember this time period. It can be a time to be together, slow down, and learn. It is a weird time, for sure, but our kids will remember it mostly by how we react to the new changes.
For teachers during distance learning:
I know how freaked out you are. You make year-long plans with the intention of getting an entire school year to teach them. They need to be ready for the next level, but now you are missing weeks of time with them. Maybe you didn’t get to say goodbye, and you miss them a lot. Most definitely, you are worrying about them, because your main job besides teaching them is loving them.
I know you want to do your best, and I’m sure you’re struggling with the abrupt changes. As you prepare for an uncertain spring season, here are some things to remember:
1. It’s okay to feel like you don’t have it all together.
The closing of schools came in such a rush that none of us were prepared. In our case, we went to spring break and then the entire city closed until… we aren’t 100% sure yet. Across the state line, kids went on break and learned through the social media that school was cancelled for the rest of the year.
No one expects you to have it all together under these circumstances, so don’t be hard on yourself! Do your best. That’s all anyone can ask of you. And just to clarify – doing your best doesn’t mean working yourself to exhaustion. You have other things to deal with, too, so let some things go for the moment if you need to. It will be okay.
2. You don’t have to do it all.
Sometimes, we just have to let go a little and realize that we are doing the best we can. It’s really hard to know that some kids are still struggling with an important concept, and now we aren’t with them to teach them. We stay up at night all through the year worrying about our students, and now we can’t even see them. We have so much left we wanted to do and to say, but now we don’t know if we’ll get the chance.
Maybe we need to take more time to review and reteach next year. It will be okay. If we need to cut out that fun project to make time to practice only the most essential skills, that’s no fun, but it will work out. We can’t expect students to make the same progress at home, so it’s okay to modify your expectations for the year.
3. Parents want to help.
I’m a mom, so I’m in a lot of mom groups online. From the first day of school closings, I saw parents everywhere posting ideas for kids at home. Reach out to some parents you have a connection with that might have ideas. I know parental involvement looks very different in elementary classes than it does in middle and high school, but if you have just a few families that can help, you might come up with some fun ideas.
4. It’s okay to try out new things.
The situation will be different for every teacher, because so much depends on things outside of our control. Access to technology, how much paper you have, or whether you’ll see your students again this year or not will be different for all of us. Gauge the technology of your families and see what’s available to do digitally. Maybe you can assign partners to work on conversation skills for foreign language. Perhaps there is a way to have class meetings using an online platform.
5. Technology can be really handy.
Boom Cards™ are my favorite way to review French verbs and vocabulary. My son hates to write, so they are our go-to practice at home. They are self-checking, so they are really ideal when you have a lot of students, because you just don’t have the time to grade everything. During distance learning, you might not even get a chance to grade papers, but the reports on Boom that come with an Ultimate Membership will let you see how students are doing!
There are so many great sets of Boom Cards for all topics and age groups. If you aren’t already using them, this is a great time to check them out.
Be good to yourself.
Whether you are a teacher at home trying to navigate distance learning, or a parent who is suddenly trying to teach your own children, give yourself grace. This is an unprecedented moment in history, and if there is ever a time to go with the flow, this is it. Be good to yourself. Spend time with the loved ones you can be with. Call a friend or family member everyday. Go outside if you can. Know that this, too, will pass.
Take care of yourself. ❤️