It’s tough teaching remotely, it’s also tough on the parents too. So managing both, for me, has been a downright disaster. We are getting better, but it did give me a chance to reflect on how parenting is being affected. A close Brazilian friend recently told me in no uncertain terms, “You know, what you are doing now, it is destroying families.” He jokes, I assume, but we need to be mindful of the strain at home.
I’ve learnt a lot about keeping positive, I’ve been over critical about work that has been presented to my two young children, but I noticed when I’m negative, the kids reciprocate. When I say things like, “Why do we have to submit this work here, there isn’t an explanation on how to do this, why is this spelt wrong,” It’s easy to notice the children reacting in a similar way and not as fully engaged. So I tested myself – full positivity – and on the whole it worked for them, they were more passionate about their tasks. And I hid myself away in the bathroom when necessary and grumbled into the mirror.
From a school point of view, this should be essential communication. Each lesson activity should be completed in a normal lesson time. As teachers, we want to see the capabilities of these students. I get it though, a parent wants to see their child succeed, and some will not allow their kids to hand in work half done. Yet, in school we are faced with mountains of not quite done work. And what do we do – if it’s one or two kids, we may ask them to finish up in a break, if it’s a large number then, guess we need another lesson on it. But the feedback loop in online teaching is delayed. Teachers are setting work before the current work is even completed by the whole class, they don’t know if it has taken 30 minutes or two hours. Teachers could offer more time for the next day to finish, but only if parents are honest enough to allow their younger ones to hand in half finished work.
For example, who did better in maths – a child who did 8 questions correctly in 40 minutes, or one who did 10 questions in 90 minutes? Teachers don’t know how long was spent on it from home, so the second kid comes out with a better grade. By focusing on time for at least some of the daily activities, this would certainly help parents manage their day.
The Ability Bombshell
Equally, parents feel overwhelmed when lots of work is provided (as of course do the children) and perhaps a breakdown of an online timetable may ease their concerns. For me, we should be stripping timetables back to at max 4 hours a day of online learning for primary and 5 hours for secondary. A comparison of normal to home learning will help parents understand the requirements
The parents learn two important things in home learning and teachers need to be prepared for this. 1. The quality of the teachers 2. The ability of their children.
It is no surprise that the majority of complaints I’ve come across are from parents with children who historically struggle in achieving lesson objectives. Makes sense, we are skilled at painting a positive picture about children that some parents never really realise that their child is struggling in some areas. It becomes plainly obvious though when your child is with you all day completing their work, without any support. So be conscious of this – differentiate often – and be mindful again of that moment when parents realise their wonderful children aren’t quite at the same level as the parents imagined.
One final thing that empowered me as a parent. After weeks of getting my children to complete certain activities, it dawned on me that I had other resources in my home that I could use to support the learning process. We made Mocktail drinks, did home made science experiments and caught snails and made them a habitat. Lots of fun things that understandably cannot be set as mandatory by teachers. As teachers we have to keep the objectives and task simple and about as free as possible. It is hard to set lessons when you don’t know what resources families have, but don’t be afraid to empower the parents to try something different, let them be creative, let them collaborate on projects, let them do whatever it takes for that child to continue to enjoy learning. Anything to stop the destruction of families.