A few weeks ago, I wrote about how our first week of remote learning turned out. In the weeks that have passed, I’ve seen friends with kids in other districts or areas start their school years off on screens too. Experiences have varied depending on how a family’s day-to-day logistics work with their school’s plan. I thought it might be helpful to some of you who are about to begin remote learning or who had a hectic first week to hear from someone who has been dealing with it for several weeks.
Since everyone’s situation looks different, I’ll tell you a little about what ours looks like. Our boys are W (first-grader) and A (fourth-grader). A also participates in advanced math and his school’s gifted program. I am a stay-at-home mom who spent 8 years as an English teacher at the high school level and my husband has a job that allows him to heavily work from home. This is what I’ve observed from our first few weeks in.
The Technology Issues Have Gotten Easier
During week 1, W couldn’t remember how to un-mute himself if his life depended on it. He can now un-mute himself as needed and knows how to enter and re-enter a live conference if his teacher has to restart it because it’s acting a little buggy. He’s also gotten pretty good at how to navigate where to find his assignments and how to close out videos and make them bigger. If he could master remembering to close the sliding glass door with this speed, I’d be thrilled. A has gotten pretty self-sufficient, including how to re-check his stuff and make sure he did everything. He also knows how to leave his regular classroom and switch over to the stuff for his other classes like advanced math and gifted. The fact the school has everything linked into one single management system is a huge help.
The Second Week Was Easier and Harder
Certain parts of our second week were definitely easier as we learned what to expect, but this was also when A’s other classes got worked into the schedule and small group breakouts were added for both kids. It suddenly meant I needed to keep track of which days each kid had which additional responsibilities come up. A printed schedule helped. So did setting alarms on my phone for five minutes before these things started to give the relevant kid a heads-up with enough time for a quick bathroom trip if needed. The real routine may not settle in for a few weeks, so be prepared for it.
Be Prepared for Adjustments
I admit I wasn’t thrilled when A’s advanced math shifted to a session on Thursday. Those are the no live session days and if the kids are on task, they can be done earlier, giving us a lot more flexibility to deal with everything else. At the same time, I understood why that shift needed to occur and I’m not going to rant against his teacher for it. Everyone has to be flexible in this situation, as it’s new territory for families and schools right now. I made the adjustment and A is still getting his stuff done early enough for us to have a flexible window.
You’re Probably Doing Better Than You Realize
Certain assignments with a first-grader are challenging. Writing is tricky because W knows his letters, he can write his letters, but he still can’t spell a lot of words and has zero patience to sound things out. He has a similar approach to writing his numbers. He can count, he can write them, but he will drag the assignment out. I posted to social media at least once about how the tubs of eggless cookie dough from Costco were what was keeping my morale intact because sometimes it’s really reassuring to hear that it’s challenging for other parents too. Last Friday felt longer and more exhausting than it needed to, and then I got an e-mail from W’s teacher saying he had earned a good behavior certificate for encouraging others that made my whole evening. I guess Friday wasn’t as bad as it felt like it was going after all.
The Situation Is Not Ideal, But It Doesn’t Have to Always Suck
I think we can all agree that 2020 was not the year we hoped it was going to be. We’ve all shared memes about what a dumpster fire it’s been, or tried to channel Ben Schwartz’s best Jean-Ralphio as we proclaim that “2020 is the WOOORST!” The truth is, nothing about remote teaching in a pandemic is truly designed to be ideal because pandemics are not convenient or ideal. It’s okay to admit it’s not ideal, but the next step may be sorting out the few advantages we can take from this. My kids get some of their extra responsibilities knocked out in the morning since we’re not dealing with the school parking lot hassle and the extra commute time you have to plan for there. Our kids are done with school earlier, so they have more free time. Sometimes this means we have time for messier activities. The kids also make their own lunches and we do have a few more options to work with food-wise since we’re not having to deal with the nut bans that have become necessary because of how allergic some kids are or the limitations of not being able to heat certain foods. Eventually, school will get back to a point where it’s all in-person without social distancing for all the kids again. Until then, we’ll pull what advantages we can out of the current situation because we could use a few points in the win column.