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COVID And Online Learning: Let The Stress Grow Even More

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.

The Stress Is Real

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Let's Hope This Round Of Online COVID Learning Is Brief

I am a high school teacher. My kids are nearly 12 and 16 years old and had their first day back to online learning yesterday. Under the current Ontario government guidelines, elementary school students should be returning to the classroom on January 11, 2021, while high school students should be returning to the classroom on January 25, 2021.

Rightly or wrongly, I've decided to wake the kids up at their usual school time. After all, school has started up again, effective January 4, 2021, and if we were all going to our respective schools, they'd be up that early anyhow. The youngest was ready to rock at her usual school start time - 8:30 - while my oldest was a bit more reticent, choosing to respond to Google Classroom posts from the comfort of her blanket burrito. She was up and working on schoolwork shortly thereafter, but like most kids her age, getting moving right away in the morning is a challenge.

I was shocked to see that the nearly-12-year-old was right on top of her schoolwork, given the last time we were fully online, she struggled with tech and with staying on top of things. I was not so surprised to see my oldest was plugging away on an assignment for her photography course, but I was a bit surprised to see something resembling sadness on her face. When I asked her what was wrong, she came to me for a hug, mumbling something about how she hated "this."

She is by no means the only person feeling that particular pain. Online learning is not for everyone, and when you're essentially forced into that situation, it makes it very easy to feel the urge to push back against the process. When you aren't someone who typically pushes back, there are few places where that feeling can go, and so you become "stuck" and may feel a bit trapped in a losing situation. I am quite certain both teachers and students are feeling that way to one extent or another right now.

Online teaching can be quite daunting, particularly if you're trying to do it from home with children around. The younger the children are, the more challenging that might become - the closest comparison I could perhaps come up with would be trying to catch a greased pig or trying to herd cats in the direction you need them to go. Teachers have also been told to provide some degree of what has been termed synchronous learning, and there are those students who might thrive with that in the classroom but will struggle with that at home. Imagine if you're dealing with students who have only one computer but multiple siblings and a parent who needs the computer for work during the day. Imagine if it's not the happiest of homes and the student is trying to pay attention while the teacher is offering a lesson online while the student's life is crumbling around them. Imagine if you're dealing with students who are already dealing with mental health challenges and have growing fear about COVID-19 - how effective is their learning and focus going to be while they're online?

During a teaching day, teachers will have a myriad of communications coming at them from fellow staff, admin, their school board, parents and students. If the teacher is working from home, you're also throwing in whatever parental responsibilities they might have, which means if the kids are being overly quiet or suddenly, painfully loud, your parental spidey senses are heightened. You might have to deal with your own kid's online learning challenges while you're trying to get your own class going and your spouse is at work.

Everyone's stress level is already high due to coping with the pandemic, and trying to either teach or learn through the pandemic is making things even more stressful. While unquestionably there are those individuals who thrive in an online environment, there are many who are struggling for a range of reasons with this new pivot to online learning, and it will ultimately take a greater toll on our mental health than the pandemic already has.

We need to be patient with each other and with our educators through this. We have to try and realize that we aren't alone in feeling the stress that we're feeling in all of this. We can get through this - it will just take time.