There isn’t a group of people who have not been affected in one way or another by the global pandemic of 2020. Last month, we introduced a few teacher friends who have been trudging through the challenges of virtual school and gave you an idea of how some teachers are faring. This month, we are looking into what it’s like to be a parent of children who have at least started the 2020-21 school year online.
To get a general idea of how parents are feeling, we asked them the same four questions we asked teachers: What is your overall experience with school this year? What has been the best part? What is your biggest challenge? What do you hope to take away from 2020?
Sandy says, “As a parent, it’s been a roller coaster of time management (not going well), increased responsibility (going surprisingly well), and a greater awareness of what the kids are learning (wonderful). I will take away the fact that my kids are capable of more than I give them credit for. I need to remember that.”
Rachel’s experience has also been more on the positive side. Feeling that her county has really stepped up and met the challenges of virtual learning head-on, she feels confident in the quality of her children’s education. “I’ve also gained a new respect for the teaching profession,” she says. The best part of this experience for her is knowing that as long as the kids are virtually learning, they are staying home, increasing the chances of keeping the family healthy. However, that leads to the greatest challenge of having three kids in three different grade levels. They’re all on different schedules, making the day very hectic. Rachel hopes to take away “more appreciation for the ‘normal things,’ like my children being in an in-person school setting.”
In-person learning has many benefits, but one of the greatest advantages is the socialization that schools afford students, the aspect of the pandemic taking the greatest toll on our younger population. Ashley is aware of the effects that the lack of socialization has had on her 8th grader. She’s loved having her near, and the best part is knowing that she’s still learning, but Ashley recognizes the struggle of being home and away from classmates. “The biggest challenge is the part where she doesn’t get to socialize like normal. Kids need it and I know she is tired of looking at the same faces every day.” She hopes that this year will help “give her [daughter] a better understanding of being safe yet flexible.”
This school year has not been so positive for everyone. Megan has twin 8th graders, who are self-sufficient and able to complete the school day without her help, a 3rd grader and a kindergartner. She says, “The little ones and I fight and argue most days to get their work done and to stop getting up or messing around. They are pretty unhappy doing virtual school.” Technical issues also crop up and cause problems. Megan’s biggest challenge is her 3rd grader who is a “busy boy and easily distracted, likes to argue and is quite stubborn.” When he’s IN school where there is a more structured learning environment, he does wonderfully. At home, however, he is more distracted by pets, snacks, and tv. With these challenges, it is difficult to find something good about this school year. “No car line maybe?” she laughs and then adds, “The teachers have been great!” Megan is realizing this year “that a few things need to change with the way we function as a family, and also that I need to relax when it comes to worrying about things that are out of my control.” And if there’s ever been a time to see all of the things out of our control, it’s 2020.
Misty is another parent who has struggled this year. She says her biggest challenge is keeping her son’s attention on his work. “It’s difficult to keep a 6-year-old focused on a screen for long periods of time. I have to get on him every day to pay attention, sit still, and do his assignments, and it’s tough!” The silver lining? “His teacher has been wonderful and very understanding. She’ll work with us and is flexible.” Misty’s big takeaway for 2020 is that she can now see in-person what her son is learning instead of guessing what he’s doing in school. “I can see what levels he’s at in reading and math. I know now where he’s at versus where he needs to be.”
We know that this has been a trying year for everyone. We don’t want to miss the opportunity to commend those parents who took on new roles and learned how to roll with the punches that come with virtual learning. Thank you, parents, for finding those silver linings and working through the challenges. There is no handbook on how to parent, teach, provide, and support, all while maintaining your own career and livelihood. So kudos to you! This is just another reminder that we really are all in this together and that only together will we be able to get through this.