As society changes to accommodate remote learning, online school, or distance learning (depends on what you call it), parents make the transition to becoming teachers and trying to balance their child’s education on top of working from home, a pandemic and financial stress. These tips from a third-grade teacher can help you tackle it all.
Back on the first day of school last fall, this is not what any teacher or parent could have imagined for the future. Thinking of my own class back then and where we are now it’s just depressing. Teachers wait all year for this time of year. By now we know our students like we know the back of our own hand. We’ve been able to relax a little bit on the rules and just have fun. There is more laughter, more fun, more field trips, and more sneaking in of slightly longer recesses this time of year. It’s my favorite time to be a teacher.
Right now though we are all here staying in our homes (you better be!). We are all trying to tackle the new normal. Parents who are still working are doing it from home while supervising their children’s schooling. Maybe jobs have been lost, income is unstable, and well…everything just feels chaotic. Now, you are tasked with this job of suddenly becoming a teacher. It’s not what anyone truly wants. As a teacher, who has taught a lot online over the years, I thought I’d drop a few tips from me to you. Here’s to hoping it helps you relax a little bit.
- Only take on what you can handle. If a school has a base amount of required curriculum and that’s enough for you. Just focus on that. Many districts are sending home additional ideas and information for parents when and if they’d like to use it. You do not need to do it all. Do not try to do it all. Just do what you can and be content with that. I can’t speak for every teacher, but speaking for myself, I like to send out links, ideas and extra resources as I find them to the parents in my class. Many teachers will send out this kind of information in an effort to give you ideas and help keep busy if you need to, but we certainly do not expect you to do them all. Remember, the truth is that a lot of us are at home also letting our kids watch Disney Plus all day and not doing fancy creative art projects, extra science experiments or online YouTube P.E. classes.
- Ask the teacher for help. When everything suddenly becomes technology-dependent for school some parents panic. I know it can feel like it’s super embarrassing to ask a basic tech question to your child’s teacher if you are struggling to figure something out. Forget about the embarrassment. We teachers are also struggling with all of this new technology too. It might look like we know what’s going on all the time, but the reality is that we don’t and we feel just as embarrassed about it. Whether it’s a question about the tech or about an assignment. Please ask. We want to help as much as possible!
- Create a daily schedule. If you’re the kind of person who thrives on routine, definitely try and figure out a schedule. I went into our first week as a teacher trying to figure out a schedule for what the day might look like. Both my partner and I are teachers and we have a toddler at home with no childcare now. We need a schedule. It failed though. Now it’s week 2 and we are trying a different schedule! The schedule builds in time for recess, playing, and working. It’s hard to stick to, but thankfully my years of working from home when I was a simple photographer have helped. A schedule can take a while to nail down and feel just right. So if it isn’t working, try a new one. I also recommend scheduling time for recess, chores, schoolwork with your help as well as independent school work (so you’ve got some time to get your own stuff done). I’ll share a schedule this next week that might help you with a daily schedule similar to an elementary school day. It might give you a starting point.
- Keep your kids reading! If you can’t do it all, but you had to only pick one thing – please let it be reading! Elementary kids are still putting all of their reading skills into practice. They are not proficient readers yet. The more they practice the better they will be. The simple act of reading with your child daily can make a HUGE difference in their education. Read every day and you’ll be building their comprehension skills, phonics skills, and fluency!
- Utilize text-to-speech options to promote independence. On the other hand, if your child struggles with reading, I realize that tackling schoolwork can be extra chaotic. Now, you’re probably having to read every instruction to them when you may really be needed elsewhere. That can be a daunting task. Check for Chrome browser extensions and or any apps that can do text-to-speech. If you utilize one of these it can save you from the task of having to read every single thing to your child.
- Focus on developing a love for learning rather than getting everything correct. During my first week of teaching online one of the things I noticed was the number of parents that were worried about their child getting every answer correct in math lessons. Don’t stress over correctness. Teachers are just hoping to expose students to the curriculum they are missing and are not worried about them mastering every single technique. Do the best you can, but if you’re forcing it and everyone is miserable it takes away from making learning fun. Instead, focus on keeping learning fun and enjoyable as a family. When you focus on the aspects that are enjoyable rather than overwhelming, it fosters that love of learning that your child’s teacher next year will adore. That love of learning is what will help them catch up and be where they need to be in the future rather than dreading school when they finally return.
- Build in time for recess. I’ve never understood teachers who take away recess as punishment. I struggle with it. Who wants to take away one of the few breaks we have from kids picking their noses and making poop jokes? Not me! Give me all the recess! That’s why I fully endorse the idea that you need to have recess at home too. Go outside and run around for 20 minutes. Break out the basketball, the hoola hoops, jump ropes, or just go for a walk. I promise that the schoolwork will seem less overwhelming and easier to focus on if you are taking regular breaks to be active. That’s why we call it recess. We do not consider watching cartoons or video games part of recess. Get outside, get some fresh air and reset for more.
- Don’t be afraid of common core. I know, parents hate the phrase “common core.” It is not all the evil that everyone thinks it is. I’m here to tell you that there are some likable things about common core. One of the reasons the math is so much more confusing is because of “common core.” The current math curriculum usually asks teachers to show math in a variety of different ways. When our job is to figure out how to solve a certain type of math problem, the curriculum will give us several different strategies to do it. What I like about these different strategies is that I get to see them reach students better. These strategies naturally align with the way our brains work better than the way I was taught as a kid. Don’t get one method? That’s okay, try another! Bear with us as we work through this different approach to elementary math at home. I promise that while some of the strategies can seem overwhelming, the goal is to help students become more successful at math because there are so many different ways you can solve a math problem.
- Find video tips online that can help. Need some help understanding the math you’re now teaching? Or understanding how to help your child develop better reading comprehension? How to work on phonics at home? There are many online resources that can help explain these things to parents. Or if you are truly still confused, ask your child’s teacher. They would be happy to explain a concept to you. Or if all else fails, ask a teacher that you do know! I’m here!
- When all else fails do an art project. Yep, that’s my last tip. Let’s say your day is not going well. The kids can’t focus, you have no idea how to help teach them their math work, the teacher isn’t responding, and you’re pulling all your hair out. Walk away. Go do an art project. I have my degree in art education and I’m here to tell you there’s a lot to learn from doing art, even though it may not seem like it!