It is coming up to the middle of August when most schools are starting or the teachers are at least planning the first days of instructions for the end of the month. I am lucky that my district had already scheduled a late start this year due to a fabulous new high school being completed this summer. That means our teachers and parents are in the beginning (-ish) of planning what to do when the doors do open.
Do we send our child back to school? [parent]
Do we limit the number of students on the buses? [administrators]
Do we keep our child at home and resume distance learning? [parent]
What, who, and where am I teaching? [teacher]
Can I work from home even if my child goes back to school? [parent]
Who is going to sanitize desks and how often? [administrators]
Will I get sick? [everyone]
If I do get sick, what happens…
As I listen to my own heart as well as those of my friends and coworkers, I keep coming back to one thing:
Parents, no matter if your child is in my classroom or on my Zoom call, I don’t need you as my co-teacher.
I don’t mean for that to sound harsh. Honest, I don’t.
What I need is for you to be your child’s parent. I promise I will teach them math and science content this year. It may not be with as many labs or manipulatives, but it will be with enthusiasm and rigor whenever possible.
If I am in class, that means I will tell stories to illustrate the math concepts. This will include some singing, some dancing, and definitely some laughing.
If I am on Zoom, that means the same thing. Maybe a little more laughing, though, because let’s be honest, technology will glitch and we can react in two ways: anger or laughter. I prefer the latter.
Your student and I will get through everything from place value to types of energy. We will learn a lot about ourselves, our iPads, math, and science. We will try. We will fail. We will pick ourselves up and try again.
You can relax and do what you would do any other year. That means check in on their day, look over their work (as you would homework any other year), and ask them questions like:
You don’t have to watch my reteaching lesson so you can explain the content to your son or daughter. They will be exposed to in several ways from me and have ample time to practice. (I promise, I will do my best to make sure everyone “gets it.”)
You don’t have to sit next to them while they work to make sure they mark it as done in Google Classroom. (I promise, they will catch on to the new routine as surely as they learned how to buy lunch themselves.)
Please know this, though, I DO want to work with you! I want to know if your child is struggling but putting on a brave face for me. I want to hear if they are at home worrying about schoolwork AND a sick friend, family member, or dog. My relationship with you to see to the overall growth of your child this year remains vital. I just want to make sure you know you are not expected to teach your child math and science this year. I will do my best to get that one off your to-do list.
I don't know about you, but I didn't envision my 10-year old would know how to log into a video conference at her age. Yet, these kids are adapting and learning how to connect faster than some of us! In fact, I told my kids to download Zoom on their iPads on Monday and by Tuesday afternoon they were setting up meetings with me! Incredible!
Again, I caution you, though. Don't mistake technology know-how with being on top of their own remote learning. Children need to learn how to manage and prioritize their days. For us, that means looking at the assignments for the week, and helping the child decide what should be done each day to have everything turned in by Friday. My students liked the idea of someone helping them with this so much that I shared the blank schedule we use at home. Here is a sample schedule similar to the one I sent along with the blank schedule to my classes:
Notice this is split into work by subject, by day. This was ideal in our house because once my daughter finished a subject, even if it was all the work intended for the week, she knew she was done and had more free choice in the rest of her day. You child may prefer more variety.
My next tip is for those of you using Google Classroom. To make this schedule you can log into Google Classroom after the weekly assignments are posted and go to the To-Do List. This is a nice, comprehensive view of the work you are expected to do for the week. You can refer back to it throughout the week to see what is still open and what is done. This is great for also catching what fun, optional assignments might also be posted.
I think it is amazing that children can pick up a device and figure the ins and outs so quickly. I am a firm believer that Apple tests their new devices on 3-year olds. It just seems like iPads and iPhones are intuitive for kids. They pick it up and have no fear, swipe up and drag icons like we used to sling mud pies and chalk on driveways!
However, after one week of #RemoteLearning, here is what I definitively know:
Knowing how to use an iPad is VERY different than knowing how to work from home.
Parents, I urge you to please sit with your child this week. I honestly don't think it matters if you child is in second grade or twelfth grade. Students do not know how to learn from home. They don't know how to set a schedule, prioritize their work, or how to / when to ask for help when the answer doesn't come naturally. They need their parents to teach them how to set up a desk at home. They need an adult to guide them through making their to-do list for the day. They need someone at home who can help them establish this new normal until school resumes.
Sounds easy, coming from a teacher, doesn't it?
Kids, especially in elementary and middle school, don't get that this isn't "coronacation." The reality hasn't hit home (thank goodness) ... but neither has the sense that school must continue despite no bells, no recess, and no teacher managing the day. Your child needs you to teach them how to be successful right now. That does not mean you need to hover over them all day long. Encourage them to research something on their own! Not all screen time is bad! Let them watch that show in Kitten Rescues or go online and find out when movies shifted from black and white to color. You might be surprised by what they can teach themselves after they know the expectations!
To minimize disruption to childrens' education, keep a strict schedule and a list of goals to meet. Recognize that challenges, and plenty of distractions and interruptions, will occur. We need to model self-discipline and focus."
Tomorrow is a new week. The governor of Ohio has said we need to stay at home. Make the most of your time and bond with your children over the workday. I think (I hope) your boss will understand if you miss a call because you took a moment to watch your child show you their brochure for school. And in the long run, your child will appreciate it and be better for it.
Today I taught my daughter the age-old skill of Latch Hook. She loves it! We are trying to do an Encore Special everyday. Yesterday we practiced her recorder and today we chose art. I had ordered these latch hook kits the night the schools were "closed" and I am so glad that I did!
Today's Tip: Be Creative!
I used to have a custom license plate that said WORKHRD. I was proud of my work ethic and where it got me in life. After having a child, the priorities changed and although I still worked hard, I found I needed to balance work and home. I must admit it was hard to do that after I started teaching! But I always tried to keep the hours of 4p.m. to 8p.m. dedicated to my family when they wanted or needed me. Now I am going to have to learn to balance monitoring student activity, posting review and enrichment material, and helping my peers with guiding my own kiddo through this process and new way of learning.
Since I am not alone as a working mom trying to balance work-from-home and pseudo-teacher, I thought I would give you some tips. These aren't perfect, but even if one of them helps you then I am okay with it!
Tomorrow my school district officially begins remote learning. The teachers have been given time to plan with teams to ensure the work posted is consistent and quality review materials. However, as everyone is home today and we hear about the "what-if's" to come, we are quickly learning there are roadblocks we will all face in the coming days (as teachers, parents, and students).
From a former IT professional and now a Fourth Grade teacher, I want to give you a heads up on some of the hardships I think we will face as we all adapt to Remote Learning:
Although my district is using today as a planning day for teachers to prepare comprehensive review plans that are consistent among teachers within a grade level, we are officially starting our homeschool today. I volley back and forth between being excited to have this time with my daughter and scared/sad that I am not in my room with my students.
I know my plans as a teacher include pushing out some solid review by topic each week until April 3rd. I will also post some optional extension activities. Since this is new to everyone, it is hard to tell what is the right amount of work to post. Everyone at home is operating differently right now; everyone will work at a different pace and have a different motivation. I think this is an important time, however, to establish a consistent schedule and routine. IF this goes longer than the governor's mandated three weeks, families need to be prepared to have children mentally and physically able to learn new material at home.
As a result, I am recommending to parents to do the following:
Mrs. Jodi Hetman is a fourth grade math and science teacher. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are solely my own.