Wellbeing

Being a Parent and a Teacher during COVID-19

By April 13th, 2022No Comments
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Some of us may still be recovering from our recent home learning experience, whether good, bad or ugly. So, it’s nice to take some time to reflect on this unique experience and what it has taught us.

It’s the first time something like this has happened in our lives; but we just got on with it, like we always do, and we have come out the other side; some of us a bit worse for wear, but we survived! It’s amazing to see just how resilient people can be, especially our children; we can learn a lot from them. Most children just took it in their stride, as if to say, “Oh, this is what life is like now, okay then” or “So I don’t go to school for a while, okay”.

I’m not saying it was all rainbows and lollipops for everyone, as I also saw firsthand how some children and adults didn’t cope with the changes at all, and how people were stressed out due to financial, family and relationship problems. It was and continues to be a hard time for a lot of families, and I’m not ignoring the hardships people have faced recently and may continue to face.

I’m just going to reflect on my home learning experience, both as a parent and as a teacher. I have been teaching for 15 years, and parenting for six years, and this was a big learning experience for me in both roles.

A PARENT’S PERSPECTIVE – ‘THE BAD’

  • Difficulties getting your child to do their home learning. To sit, focus, complete it all in a reasonable time. With the added arguments over differences in how we are showing them how to do it, compared to how they are taught at school, e.g. “My teacher said we do it this way, you’re doing it wrong, you’re not my teacher!” And too much time on devices, leading to techno tantrums.
  • Trying to work from home at the same time as doing home learning with your child. This is practically impossible as children don’t care about your deadlines, meetings, or being quiet. • Keeping siblings occupied. Either siblings that are doing different school work, having to monitor more than one child at a time, or keeping younger siblings entertained. You are only one person, so keeping siblings away from each other trying to do school work, keeping them quiet, or busy for more than a Bluey episode or a bowl of snacks is not possible.
  • Parents not knowing the content or how to use the technology. This is not a dig at parents, it’s content they haven’t thought about in at least 20 years or programs they’ve never had to use before. Even content in Prep, “What’s a phoneme?” Let alone any grades higher than this, and high school… forget it! Google and Siri have had a good work out during this time, and as a teacher I’ve been the ‘phone a friend’ option on more than one occasion.
  • More stress on relationships. This is probably an understatement! How do you change the whole dynamic of your family overnight? You don’t; and that’s why this was so hard. Parents went from helping with school work, to in some cases, being their child’s teacher, IT support, and counsellor.
  • Less of the things we enjoy. A lot of the fun things in life, like friends and freedom were gone, and replaced by work and stress. This threw out our work/life balance and some people lost their mojo.

A PARENT’S PERSPECTIVE – ‘THE GOOD’

  • Seeing first-hand how your child is going with their schoolwork. You knew what they were talking about, could see their strengths and weaknesses as a learner, which subjects they enjoy, and how to make the other subjects more enjoyable for them.
  • Learning new skills. Apps like Seesaw and Google classroom. As well as knowledge, like languages and music. It was good to also refresh the things you learnt a very long time ago.
  • Learning how to teach your child better. You could see the different strategies they were using at school and help your child with these. As well as see what type of learner your child is, whether they prefer written, visual, auditory or physical learning.
  • No school lunches, uniforms, or rushing in the mornings. Need I say more!
  • More time with your child to get to know them better. Priceless! It might not have felt that way at the time, but they do appreciate you just being with them.
  • Have more to talk about with your child. There were no more questions of, “What did you do at school today?” with replies of, “Nothing”. You could talk about and even extend on their learning.

A TEACHER’S PERSPECTIVE – ‘THE BAD’

  • No face-to-face contact with students. It was like the best part of being a teacher, ‘being with your class’, was taken away. Which meant no funny incidents to make the days enjoyable and the time pass quicker. This was replaced by staring at a screen and sitting down all day.
  • Huge workload initially to get all the home learning sorted. It took some getting used to and a lot of trial and error.
  • Regular duties, meetings and Zoom. As essential workers’ children were still coming to school it was not only online teaching that we had to plan, deliver and check, but the daily duties, face-to-face and virtual meetings that went with being at school as well.
  • Hard to teach new concepts. We could only use home learning as a revision of concepts already taught; any new concepts would need to be revised when school went back to ‘normal’. This also means not being able to cover as many concepts in the year.
  • Not actually getting to teach the lessons. Teachers are great at explaining concepts, then re-explaining them however many times and in however many ways they need to, to be sure each student understands what to do, how to do it, and why they’re doing it. Not being with them also meant it was difficult to give an accurate judgement on their work as you didn’t know how much help they were given.
  • Students not completing home learning. With different family circumstances for each child this meant that not every child was getting the same access, time and experience with the work being sent home. Some children did every task and more, and some did none. And it’s hard to compare given the uncertain times that some families were experiencing. For some, home learning was not a priority.
  • More time for collaboration. We were able to discuss planning, ideas, people’s strengths, share the work load, and have more consistency among classes.
  • No behaviour issues. If students were mucking around in Zoom then you could just mute them, turn their video off, or send them out of the meeting.
  • Improved technology skills for teachers and students. Teachers became pros at using Seesaw and Zoom and students were a lot better with technology when they returned to class.
  • Parents could see firsthand how their child was going with their schoolwork. It gave parents a chance to see for themselves all the things you’ve been saying, e.g. they struggle with… they need to work on… they are good at… they would benefit from…
  • Parents got a glimpse of what it’s like to be a teacher. And if teaching one child was a challenge… now imagine teaching 25-plus children, all with different abilities, needs, backgrounds, etc. Maybe society will have more respect for the teaching profession after COVID-19.
  • The best part was seeing how excited the children were to come back to school. To see their friends, be back to ‘normal’, play, chat, laugh and learn. Their new appreciation and gratitude to just be back at school was inspiring. They really missed it and are happy to be back. Let’s hope this lasts a while.

Julie Dore is a teacher at St Gerard Majella School, Woree and author of Prepping for School Success