Education & Their Sanity During the Pandemic: Encouragement From a Teacher Mom
My youngest daughter, newly eight, understands the freedom of riding a bicycle. She proudly does her afternoon chore of riding her bike down our long driveway to get the mail, then riding back as fast as she can with letters and magazines in the little flowered basket. My almost ten-year-old daughter feels left out and has yet to conquer her fear of falling off. Watching the joy on her sister’s face has propelled her to learn to balance the bicycle on training wheels. She’s worked every afternoon trying and falling, even riding in the grass to make the falls less painful.
These days at home and a more relaxed schedule offer opportunities for personal growth and challenges outside of Google Classroom. Just a few days ago, my oldest tried out a bike with no training wheels and it clicked! She didn’t fall off and within minutes, she too was racing up and down our long driveway. This moment took about four years of patience and waiting and trial and error, but I doubt it would have been possible on a normal schedule. It’s a huge win for her, boosting her confidence and her struggle to fit in.
Remote learning is hard. We’re still riding with training wheels on learning to balance the demands of the classroom with the distraction of siblings and pets. Children need structure, but if your house is like mine, we’re just trying to survive. Yes, I’ve sent them out to play so I can have a virtual meeting in peace. Yes, I’ve staggered their wake-up times to minimize disruptions. And yes, it’s like learning to ride a bike all over again… and I am a teacher.
Whatever you’re doing at home, understand that the kids are alright.
Any math or reading assignments they’re struggling with, they will also struggle with at the beginning of the year. Face to face, in a structured setting will solve those problems. In my state, failing students at this time is forbidden. Struggling kids may get an incomplete, they may have extra tutoring next school year, but your kids will not fail. Some kids have no internet, some have no one at home to help them, some older kids are watching the younger ones, and every family is different and has different struggles. We teachers understand that. If your student is younger than high school, I would suggest easing off the pressure of grades.
Kids are sad. They truly miss their friends, teachers, and routines. A “C” in third-grade science isn’t going to ruin them for life, so don’t make it a fight at home right now. For high school students, assignments at this time should be more like extra credit. My state (Georgia) has said no zeros and nothing can count against a student. Assignments can only raise grades, so students who do the work can add to their GPA. Most states have similar policies.
Again, don’t add pressure to an already stressful situation. Consider your child’s mental state, confidence, and self-image. Focus on making the work done at this time something that will increase your child’s self-efficacy (fancy educational word meaning to believe in one’s ability to be successful in something).
The precious moments out of this time will go on to bolster your kids in the future. My oldest learned to ride a bike and use a can opener (apparently this needs to be taught). We’ve brought out the sewing machine and made masks. We’ve learned some money skills by playing board games and everyone has learned to do their own laundry.
While exact math operations may be a little rusty or putting together an essay results in a meltdown, when real school resumes, your kids will remember what you taught them. So go ride that bike, plant the garden, make the cookies, have them do laundry, play Monopoly and crank up the dance parties. These activities build confidence and confidence breeds more confidence. Confidence spills over into other things and other fears. Just like my oldest child finally learned to ride a bike, your child will learn fractions or division at some time. It does not have to be this month.
Keep it up moms. I promise when normal comes back around, your kids will be alright.
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