It’s late August and school is happening from home. The pandemic has forced us to reimagine school whether we like it or not. Remote learning means that my 8-year-old will be next to me while I work. I can’t stop to help her with her assignment while I’m on Zoom teaching my virtual classes. I have no idea how I am going to manage lunch and outdoor activities while still trying to do my job with optimal effectiveness. How are we, as parents, going to make this work? It seems impossible.
I’m an educator and a parent of two and I know we can do it. The following tips will help us all as we transition into the new school year.
Remote Learning is Real School
Treat it that way as much as possible. Have your child get dressed and eat breakfast in the morning and find a comfortable place to sit when logging on to class. I've already purchased a few headwraps to slap on with school spirit wear t-shirts so I can appear just as ready as the kids each morning.
My oldest wanted to shop for clothes and supplies. I was tempted to say no (PJs and pencils from the crevice of the couch should work just fine) but I am going to oblige. This has been a tradition each year before school began, so we won’t let a pandemic stop us. And, yes, we will take the first day of school pictures on the porch.
Make a learning space for each of your children
To the extent that it is possible, designate space for each of your children to "go to school."
If they have a desk, prepare it for the new school year with a comfy chair and necessary supplies. If the learning space can be separated from the bedroom or play area, that is a bonus. My daughter has a deep closet that I am clearing out and adding a small desk. She is excited about the "office" we are designing for her.
Decide on breakfast and lunch ahead of time
During this next phase of remote learning, students will spend a lot more time working on independent work and classwork with their teachers than they did at the end of last school year.
Therefore, there will be limited or scheduled time for snacks and lunch. If lunch is prepared ahead of time (think: what would I have packed in their lunchbox?), that will save a lot of time and allow for longer outdoor breaks before the second half of the day begins.
In my home, we are planning to create a menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner each week. This will probably only last a few weeks, but I can dream, can't I? I find that when we follow that menu, it is so helpful for grocery shopping and preparing meals in shorter periods of time.
Decide on a start and end time for school and work
My biggest lesson learned from the spring was my inability to end the workday. Since I was home all day, I could put emails and grading off until later so that I could take another call, plan a lesson or help my daughter with an assignment.
This school year, I plan to end work each day at a definite time. Homework, grading, planning, emails, and Zoom meetings will all have to wait until the next day. Decide what time works best for your family. Setting boundaries will be very important in making this school year more successful.
Remember we are all in this together
Continue to practice the grace and patience that so many of you did at the end of the school year. If you are struggling with technology, motivating a child, or the district's content/curriculum, your child's teacher is probably struggling with something similar at home as well.
If someone is sick with COVID or dealing with the loss of income during this unprecedented time, your child's teacher's family probably has similar struggles. Reach out to them with respect and kindness and know that they want school to be a positive experience for your child. We all want the same thing―to get through this as successfully as possible.
Arnetta Thompson is a 2019-20 Teach Plus Illinois Policy Fellow. Arnetta is a fifth grade teacher in the Oak Park Elementary School district.
A National Board Certified teacher, Arnetta is the Region 46 Vice-Chair for the Illinois Education Association and organizes the fifth grade service team at her school. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in elementary education and American studies ...