In honour of Teacher Appreciation Week, we asked some educators and parents to share their experiences with remote learning during the COVID crisis.
Many, many parents were recently thrust into a new normal, working from home, taking care of kids and facilitating online learning. Days are filled with alternating moments of anxiety and triumph as families navigate a new daily routine. With Teacher Appreciation Week upon us, we’ve been reflecting more and more on education. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the myriad ways teachers support kids and parents every day—beyond just executing on a lesson plan. A lot of us are likely thinking about school differently now, and we wanted to know how others felt as well. We reached out to a handful of teachers and parents with a few simple questions. Their responses show was we can learn about learning in the era of COVID-19—and what lessons we can carry forward with us.
Shannon, third grade teacher (generalist)
I have always felt that a school is the heart and soul of a community. This situation has really reinforced that for me. School is about so much more than just learning how to read, add, subtract and multiply. The human connection and support between staff, students and teachers—and between kids and their friends—is so powerful. We are doing our best to replicate that connection online but we are all looking forward to greeting our students at the door again, sooner rather than later.
This is the most intense professional development of all time! As if teaching elementary wasn’t enough like herding cats, try hosting a Google Meet with 25 nine-year-olds (and often their siblings, too). It’s like playing wack-a-mole with the mute button!
It’s been cool to see some students take to using technology. Developing digital responsibility is something that can be tricky to teach in the classroom when we share 25 computers and five iPads between 50–75 students. We know that this generation of students will, without a doubt, rely heavily on technology in some way or another in the careers 20 years from now. I think in some ways, this was a great opportunity to launch these kids into the world of tech in a safe way—guided by their parents and teachers.
It’s been a challenge to look at the curriculum and pick out the most important learning to help prepare them for the next grade—and make sure it’s something that can be delivered to students online. We work hard as a team to provide as much guidance and support as possible for parents, with as little instruction as we can. Worrying about families and students has also been a huge challenge. We are already so limited in the ways we can support families—and now without seeing kids every day, we can do so much less. It leaves everyone feeling really helpless.
Heather, mother to a toddler and nine-year-old
I believe the education system is doing a good job of adapting quickly to the situation and finding a solution to keep teaching students in a different environment. My daughter’s teacher will adjust workloads depending on individual situations.
The experience has been a learning curve for all of us—the teacher, my daughter and me! It was difficult the first week trying to adjust but it gets easier every week. The best part of homeschooling is that I get to see everything she’s working on. She can get help from us if she needs it, but I feel this is helping her be more independent.
It’s been a challenge getting organized with teacher emails, assignments and keeping on top of whether or not my daughter is finishing her work. Having patience is also a huge challenge! Teachers sure need to have a lot of it to be teaching a classroom full of kids. We also have a toddler that needs to be the center of attention all the time, making it hard to help with school work.
Carolyn, eighth grade Social Studies and Spanish teacher
When social distancing began and education had to switch to online instruction, I was working very diligently to provide students with online Spanish education that focused on grammar and vocabulary—which are very difficult concepts to teach, even in the most ideal situations. A few weeks ago, I decided to change it up and instead asked students to spend time with their families in the kitchen to make some sort of “Latin” dish. I tried to keep the concept as open as possible, whether it was nachos con salsa, quesadillas or even just pan con mantaquilla (butter on toast).
The kids were shocked that I had asked them to do something so different. But, I got so many photos of students spending time with their families in the kitchen, enjoying their delicious meals and I could tell how happy they were to do something different for their learning. I even got a few thank you emails from them letting me know how appreciative they were to be able to participate with their families in a cultural activity from the comfort of their homes.
It’s been a challenge learning to navigate a digital teaching format, which is something that I’m not used to. I had never used Google Classroom before this, so it has been a huge learning curve for me. I am yet to have a week where I release a lesson and don’t wake up in the morning to 50+ emails from students letting me know that they’re not able to access something that I’ve assigned to them. It can get very frustrating at times, but I trust that the students understand that even teachers can struggle with this new format of online instruction.
Social distancing has reinforced what I and a lot of other teachers already knew; an educated population is a healthy population. Our public education system serves a large and diverse population and it plays a vital role in our community, not just to provide education for students, but it also often serves as a safe space for children, providing necessary mentorship programs for youth and even providing food assistance to areas of our community with the hot lunch program. It has been very disheartening over the last year to watch the government aggressively cut funding to this crucially important public service and many teachers and administrators are overwhelmed, not just from the daily small stresses of teaching, but also from the governmental forces above that are making decisions that directly impact the most vulnerable sectors of our population. It has shown me that our voices matter and we need to do everything we can to guarantee our next generation’s successes.
Brittany, third grade teacher (generalist)
This experience has shown me the power of connection and relationships. Although we are learning online, I still feel just as close to my kiddos. I am just getting to know them in a new way! I’ve had more one-on-one time with students, without as many interruptions.
During a recent video chat, I was trying to ask one of my students questions about plants, but he kept responding with: But did you see my dog? He ran around chasing his dog, and I eventually gave up and we just talked about his dog and every toy in his house. It was great!
Jenn, mother to a three-year-old and a seven-year-old
I have so much respect for teachers. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it day after day. I know I couldn’t do it—I just don’t have the patience. It will be interesting to see what the new normal will be going forward.
Homeschool as definitely been interesting. My oldest son is in grade two, so they have recommended that the kids just do about an hour of school a day. He spends about a half an hour reading in French and then a half an hour doing math. The highlight for me is listening to him speak in French—he’s picked it up quite fast.
I thought that it would be a piece of cake to get him to do school work because he seemed to love learning and pick things up very easily. But because he’s home, it’s actually been quite a fight to get him to do anything school-related. I think he thinks he’s on vacation. So, I’ve had to resort to bribing. Parenting 101. Some days I have a lot of anxiety because I feel like I should be doing more.
Photo credit: Maria Symchych / Shutterstock