A Fine Line: Managing Educational Expectations at Home
Well, here we are.
Day 10 of our mandatory social distancing. Right now, my husband is on the couch sending out assignments to students and responding to questions (he teaches math), my daughter is getting ready for a Zoom meeting with her 5th grade teacher, my son is filming a singing warm-up for his choir teacher, and I'm at the kitchen table writing to you.
Like many of you, we're managing - managing who gets to use what device for what assignment, managing household chores and duties, managing the wide range of emotions we feel as restrictions become ever tighter in our neck of the woods (which is central PA for those of you wondering).
This momentary harmony comes out of lessons learned from a week of complete chaos. Last week (our first of "home" school) felt disastrous. One day, my husband spent almost 12 hours straight online trying to help his students adjust. My son erupted in tears twice because technology did not cooperate. I tried (with little success) to do my own work while feeding people, trouble-shooting technology woes, and coming with up activities for my daughter (who does not have any work from her district).
I'm going to be honest. I started the week feeling like, "Yeah! This is just like a snow day! It will be such an adventure." By the end of the week I felt like, "Sweet Jesus, please let me out of this torture palace."
But we learned. We adjusted. We managed.
Managing our expectations with regard to educational outcomes - for as long as we're "home" schooling - resulted in a more positive experience for all of us. To us, managing meant taking a look at the big picture - staying safe, keeping healthy, and maintaining a positive outlook - and then figuring out how schooling fit into that. We also came to grips (as parents, teachers, and students) that the "learning" that happens online is not equivalent (nor should it be expected to be) to learning in a classroom.
We accepted the fact that online learning in this moment is a stop-gap measure.
From there, we looked at online assignments as a way to keep our brain in shape - not the most important piece of the day. Once we put our online schooling in its proper place, we experienced a shift in attitude...and outcome.
So as you, teachers and parents, approach the next couple weeks of schooling at home, keep in mind these few things:
you won't be able to stick to your curriculum plan and stay on track...and that's okay.
keeping students encouraged at home is more important that keeping them busy.
find things that engage learners and pique their curiosity.
understand that not every kid's home is equipped for online education.
you are amazing and have stepped up in an incredible way on almost no notice.
there are far more important things for your child to learn FROM YOU at home, like how to handle adversity. Set a good example.
your child will not receive the same kind of education they would at school AND you are not expected to provide that for them.
stop talking about how your kids are driving you crazy and you can't wait for them to go back to school. They hear you. In the middle of a crisis, you're saying you don't want them around, and that's scary (whether you're joking or not).
spend time sharing things you like with your kids. By doing that, you're teaching compassion, empathy, connection, and care. What wonderful things to learn about!
This is really one of those moments in time where things will never be the same afterward. But this can also be a moment in life where time slows down, and we grab at what we're offered, making the most of it.
Online lessons, videos, virtual tours, and such are great opportunities, but they are far from the most important thing right now. Grab hold of the time you're offered as a family, and make the most of it. You won't regret it.