Distance, Hybrid, Classroom, 2020 Difficult for All

Unless a family was already teaching as a homeschool, perhaps for at least a year or two, I think most families with children in school had to make many adjustments in 2020. These will continue in 2021, from all current evidence. It has been difficult for everyone, I think. Parents had to suddenly be responsible for part or all of their children’s education, teachers had to change from online to hybrid to the classroom and perhaps back again. Our local district is planning (so far) to have children in K-2 return to the classrooms full time very soon. Grades 3-5 are supposed to join them at school in February. In November, everyone was sent home to learn. Now with the new variation being probably more transmissible and also more catchy for children, I wonder what will be done next. It keeps us all guessing.

I watched a four-year-old take Pre-K online. Oh, my. How is that kind of learning anything like physically being with other children in a warm classroom environment? How can the teacher get and keep the attention of a class of preschoolers? I also tutored some online and it was nothing at all like being there in person to catch and keep the child’s attention. Education for our youngest is difficult online or part-time.

Parents who are working at home have something to do — their work! And yet they are expected to keep the children on track for learning objectives and work. How is that possible when concentration is required for jobs at home?

Teachers are told one day to the next what might be required of them as to distance, hybrid, or classroom learning. Preparation is vastly different for the three situations. And this wasn’t covered in college education classes as a full-time possibility. Yes, teachers know how to use Google classroom and other online tools, but those are tools that work with a teacher who is leading the lessons.

2020 was difficult for everyone, and especially those involved with the education of children.

Dr. Eric Jenson studies the brain and learning. He suggests there are three ways children must be safe to return to school: physical safety, emotional safety, and social safety. Teachers read his books and learn that when we learn, we must have blood flowing to all parts of our brains. When scared or stressed, the brain concentrates on the limbic (emotional and automatic) system. His explanation is more complex than that, but essentially scared or worried children (and people) cannot learn their best.

Susan Munoz, Associate Professor of Higher Education says,

“I am not behind or unproductive. I’m doing as much as my mind and body are allowing me to do under perpetual stress and fatigue.”

Edutopia (on Facebook)

I think this is true not only for children but adults as well, and not only for education but for everyone everywhere dealing with the pandemic. The Atlantic has an article about the importance of sleep during a pandemic. Many of us are feeling stressed or fatigued. Yet, we think children should just do their work and homework and when they may shut down and refuse it becomes difficult. They are doing their work of living through a pandemic. We have no past experiences of such ourselves so have to try to see it from the student’s viewpoint.

Physical Safety

Physical Safety during Covid-19 is well covered on television and the news. Wash hands, don’t touch the face, wear a mask, cover coughs, and stay 6 feet apart. This is being well covered. It has been stated and restated since March.

Social Safety

Social safety plays out differently at home than the classroom. Essentially, children may not respond to being put on the spot. If a family is meeting by Zoom or Google Meet, and a child is told to tell someone what he or she has been learning (for instance) the child may clam up. The same is true if a teacher of a class says he or she is going to call on everyone to answer a question. Children must be able to opt-out or pass if they must speak when it is their turn. This should be set up ahead of time. Alternately, if everyone is calling out answers as families may do, a child’s voice may not be heard. It is a fine line and a new online world for all of us.

Social safety at school or out in public needs to include what to do if someone approaches a student or tries to give a hug. How would the child respond to such a situation? Practice scenarios to help the child feel more comfortable. What to do about different possible problems should be rehearsed or at least discussed so the child feels safe.

Emotional Safety

Emotional safety is very similar to social safety. I’m thinking of the child having feelings or thoughts about the pandemic that are perhaps not expressed or have no answer. Adults do not have all the answers about Covid-19 or the vaccines. We do not know when things will return to normal. However, I think there are some things we can do to help. When things are “normal” we have set days of the week to attend clubs, classes, sports, or church. We maybe eat out when one child in a family is going to be in a game or tournament. Perhaps relatives visit for certain dates or events, and we might not be able to do that right now.

So I advocate setting up new anchors for the week or month for children to not only feel it is “blursday” or the days are never-ending continuously until the end of the pandemic. These may have to be created by the parents or teachers to provide children with a few things to help make sense of time now. A weekly or scheduled take-out dinner night, delivery or pick-up, might make sense if it is possible financially for a family. If you are giving home haircuts, perhaps make an “appointment” on the calendar so the child knows when to expect such things. Act like it is normal to schedule things now although it is actually quite different. At school, online or hybrid, perhaps a special sharing time could be set up once a week or month so the children are able to look forward to the time. Some teachers have allowed the children just to chat online (of course, he or she is there to monitor the comments) which the students find delightful.

I’m sure you will have ideas to fit your family or class. I’m thinking of everyone and hope better days are coming — and soon!

Thank you for reading, Carolyn

 
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