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.
Teaching And Parenting During COVID
Those who follow this blog are well aware I'm a high school teacher with two children, who are 16 and 11 and a half as of this writing. Since March 2020, when we were all sent home from school to play the wait and see game, teaching and parenting both have become rather interesting - more so than it may have been previously.
All of a sudden, at least in the area I teach in in Ontario, teachers who may not have previously had online platforms were suddenly operating them, trying to guide their students who may or may not have the technical knowhow to use their sites through their education. If students didn't have access, at least here in Ontario, teachers were expected to provide paper packages of work for students so they could keep up with what was happening in each of their four respective classes. We did this gladly, as we wanted to ensure our kids - I can't be the only teacher who refers to my students as my "kids," right? - stayed on top of things as we tried to help them through their lessons. We waited to hear when we'd be returning to the classroom; in Ontario, it was originally supposed to be a simple two-week span that we'd be home. As we all know, two weeks became a month, and so on.
While this was happening, those of us with kids of our own tried to ensure our own kids were staying on top of their work. Those of us with older kids may not have had much of an issue, at least from a tech perspective, as very frequently kids are very much aware of how to at least navigate a Google Classroom. Those with younger kids were also teaching them to log in to daily or weekly Google Meets, in addition to troubleshooting their tech problems while potentially trying to navigate our own. They may have also been trying to balance the time their children were on their computer with their own working time on the computer, in the event there was only one work computer in the household.
Teachers cajoled and urged students to get their work done during their time away from school, with varying reports of what work would actually "count" and what wouldn't. Ultimately, we were told that marks couldn't drop from March 13, 2020, which means we were going to face a bit of a battle when returning to the classroom; if students "tuned out" after March 13 because they knew their mark wouldn't drop, there was curriculum that students were all of a sudden missing that would have to be made up the following school year.
Teachers and students returned to various forms of classes at the start of September, as we all know, faced with various schedules and platforms that we'd have to navigate. We started the year being told we'd be having final exams per quadmester, and then had to readjust our mark schemes to accommodate for now not having finals. While that change comes down to the click of a few buttons, thanks to technology, teachers were left with a bit of a conundrum. Sure, school work could be adjusted to account for the missing final exam, but what assignments would suddenly have greater weight? This all takes time to adjust.
We were also helping students navigate the realities of their new classrooms. At the high school level - at least, in the area I teach - students are expected to be in their classrooms for instructional time for four hours daily. Granted, this is broken into two-hour intervals, but hear me out. In the first two-hour stretch, there is an eight-minute break, and otherwise, students are not permitted to get up at any point, save for sharpening their pencils, and are expected to be in their desks. This is duplicated in the second two-hour stretch. This means that for right now, we can't have the students working in groups or even partners where they are facing each other, which for many classes makes collaborative learning difficult at best and frustrating at worst to try and figure out how to make it work. Students are also expected - unless they head outside for lunch - to stay seated in their classrooms during the lunch period, removing their masks only to eat or drink without talking to their friends. They can put the masks back on once they are done eating, and only when the masks are back in place should they be talking to their friends.
Hallways are eerily silent most of the time, save for when students are on their eight-minute break. Students don't hang out the way they used to during the lunch hours, and as a teacher, that's frustrating because it does play a role in a student's mental health. As a parent, I worry about my kid being able to interact with their peers at school the way kids usually interact.
Teachers are dealing with policies that are being introduced, often in a manner that appears to be midstream, that are making a challenging job even more so. We are trying to get report cards done while planning online platforms for courses that start the next day. Some days, we are trying to log into Zoom meetings when wifi cuts in and out at random points. We are trying to support each other and students through what has been a crazy year.
We're trying to support our own kiddos without looking like we're ready to cry or explode with frustration at the maelstrom of weirdness that's going on around us. We know not to take our work home with us, but we're educators - that's kind of what we do. We want our kids, who are stronger than we realize, to know that there will be another side to this COVID craziness one day and that one day, things will go back to some degree of relative normalcy. They know that we don't have the answers, but they count on us to be that steady presence in their lives that isn't overwhelmed by the craziness in the world right now.
So, life is stupidly, crazily frustrating and draining right now, but you know what? Educators are supporting each other through all of this, offering a comforting ear or cup of coffee - or even chocolate - when the occasion arises. Parents are doing the same, and our kids are doing better with the new school rules than any of us may have ever expected.
These are all things to be proud of, friends, and let's have it continue.