I remember a day when I, as a young mother cradling my small child in my arms, met a man who said, “Little children, little problems, big children, big problems.” I am sure he was referring to the many stumbling blocks that parents face as their children travel along the road to maturity. Today, as I think back to our meeting, I wonder what he would have to say about the big problems, the “never before happened in our lifetime” big problems, that little children and their parents face today.
Today’s unprecedented hurdles that families have to overcome when they don’t know what lies ahead are affecting every aspect of family life. Wearing masks and sanitizing hands have become second nature, but remote learning, especially when both parents work away from home, can be extremely frustrating for parents and their children.
Teachers are to be commended for their valiant efforts during this COVID crisis. With no other options available due to the closure of their schools, many teachers are spending hours creating lesson plans for students they have yet to meet, assess, and gain their trust. The harsh reality is that no matter how much thoughtful effort is put into their lessons, students on the receiving end have tremendous difficulty sitting still and staying focused on a computer screen.
I compare remote learning to having a FaceTime conversation with my granddaughters. Screens provide an avenue for putting on a performance and perform they do! Eloise will scan the room, show us her pug, and make funny faces while holding the phone. May, on the other hand will become the young sophisticate and ask how we are feeling. Both display an unnatural affect when communicating over a screen, a natural reaction to a contrived situation.
While remote learning may tentatively work for older children, young children are more in need of the personal interaction inherent in classroom dynamics. Within this framework, teachers serve to encourage the sharing of ideas and applaud the risk taking that is necessary for learning. Children are far less likely to demonstrate their confusion while on a ZOOM call with faces of their entire class looking on.
Working parents especially have it tough during these times. With no end to the COVID crisis in sight, many schools remain closed and have no choice but to implement a remote learning alternative. Faced with a need to work away from home, working parents are stretched to their limits. They don’t have the luxury of helping their children when the need arises and carry the extra burden of guilt on top of all their other weighty responsibilities.
This past September, once again faced with school closures, our son-in-law, Jeremy, came up with a creative solution for meeting the needs of May and Eloise. With so much available office space in his workplace, he rented an office for their use near his. In doing so, the girls are in a safe environment and have the comfort of knowing he is nearby should they need his support. Their father’s close proximity is providing them with the confidence to build independent work habits.
The current pandemic has given rise to several resourceful ideas for making a difficult time in our lives tolerable. Some schools are rotating students into part-time, in-class instruction by cutting class sizes. High school and college-aged students are offering free online tutoring for children in need of academic assistance. Parents are taking turns opening their homes to small groups of children during online times of the day. Some parents, like Jeremy, have set up remote learning areas for their children close to or within their places of work. The internet is filled with suggestions for helping parents, teachers, and children get through the current educational crisis. Lemonade is being made from lemons when options are limited and the wellbeing of children is at stake.
COVID will one day be a nightmarish memory and parents will once again limit the amount of time their children spend on their devices; devices that had once played a key role in keeping them connected to their teachers and classmates. Until that day, parents, teachers, and communities are continuing to find ways to meet big problems head-on with big solutions.