Tuesday, April 14, 2020

A Note From a Teacher

Notes from a teacher: School at home
So much is going on in the world right now! And it's difficult for all of us -- adults and kids alike -- to make sense of it.

Schools are closed.
Businesses are closing.
Groceries have empty shelves and limited hours.
We are being asked to stay in our homes

This is bringing on a new role for parents that they have not been tasked with before. Not only are many families home together rather unexpectedly, but parents are feeling the pressure to not just parent, but also to take on the role of teacher, many of whom never planned to nor wanted to homeschool their kids. 

This can be incredibly scary, intimidating, and just overwhelming, to say the least.

As an elementary school teacher, let me tell you this: just maintaining a loving, supportive, and safe environment is enough right now. 

If you hug your child and reassure them, then you did enough. If you play a board game and let them help make a snack, you did enough. If you are stressed and overwhelmed and needed a break and to take a moment for yourself, you did enough.

You are enough for your children. 

I know many teachers (myself included) have sent home packets, resources, and emails to parents about what they can do to support student learning. Trust me when I say, we don't expect you to replace us during this time. We don't expect you to have amazing lesson plans, perfectly executed spelling tests, or even to have any clue as to what you should be doing. 

We send materials and emails to support you, to help with the unexpected down time we all now have, to keep some normalcy in an incredibly uncertain situation, and to help you and your children as best we can.

I have been sharing with the families in my class that I don't expect them to be teaching their children during this time. While I hope that my students will continue some learning, I don't expect that they will complete every worksheet in the packets they were given.

As a teacher of younger kids, I would like you to view this is an opportunity for your children to learn outside of academia. It's a chance for them to pitch in, learn new skills, and participate in the family unit a little more.

Learning happens in a million different ways, not just at school or through carefully crafted lessons. We know you are stressed and worried, wondering how to juggle having your kids at home, working from home, and everything else. And, we would love to help you with all of that, but rest assured, that sometimes it is OK to take a deep breath, expect things to be less than perfect, and to set aside structured academics for less structured family experiences. Your kids will learn a number of skills and tools through non-academics without them (or you) realizing it.

At my house, last night we played the board game CLUE and built critical thinking skills. Tonight, we planted some seeds and labeled them for our garden (science!). Last weekend, everyone in the family folded their own laundry and then pitched in to clean the living room (home economics and life skills!). Tomorrow, we will do some math practice (from the packets sent home by my children's teachers), and then we'll take a break to work in our garden.

I'm confident that building in everyday activities, you will also manage to building "lessons" into everyday life without thinking about it. And, that will be enough for your kids right now. Will I plan some structured academic time into our day? Sure. But, if it doesn't happen one day are my kids going to fail and end up struggling for the rest of their lives? Not a chance.

These circumstances are ones that we've never been faced with or even considered in our lifetimes. No one knows exactly what to do. As a teacher, some my best lessons have come from the unexpected and required improvisation in the moment. I've stopped my entire class so that my students could watch a butterfly fly by, to have an unexpected dance party, to all give a hug to friend, and for a million other moments that have come up unexpectedly. You can do that too. Just like teachers, you have to follow the lead of your child (to a degree -- you are still the adult, after all). 

No one learns when they are hungry, scared, or uncertain.

It's ok to get back to the basics and to tie learning into life experiences. Or if you're having a day like I did today, scrap your best laid plans, embrace the chaos, and start over tomorrow. 

I promise you this: you are enough and can provide the solid, loving foundation your children need in these uncertain times. 

Give yourselves a break, don't expect perfection, and we'll be back with some tips on how to make this all more manageable.

Leave us a comment and let us know:
What is working well in your household right now?
What are you or your children struggling with?
What do you wish your children's teachers knew about how school-at-home is affecting your kids?

Ok, class, {{{{GROUP HUG}}}}}!