Authored by Dr. Jana Moore, ESOL teacher in Prince William County and VATESOL 2nd Vice President.
In the new (and hopefully temporary) norm I wake up sometime before my kids and gulp down coffee while trying to structure out a plan for the day. Things to take into consideration? My husband, also on telework, will need to make a few conference calls: the kids and I will have to be super quiet during those times. I need my 5-year-old to keep working on letter and sight word recognition, and his awesome pre-school keeps sending me activities that he is used to doing on a daily basis. Some of these are reading activities, some math, and some even in Spanish! My 8-year-old is supposed to be working on his math. Reading is not a problem, because he has taken after his parents and inhales books. I can use that to my advantage to work on social studies. I still need to come up with some science or art activities. Then there is the house, which still needs to be cleaned, meals to be made (21 a week...ack!), dog to be walked, garden to be planted, the never-ending pile of laundry. I have to think about my job. I am a teacher. I am not “done with the school year,” but quite the opposite. I have to learn how to teach online, how to build a website, upload work and videos, and find ways to communicate with students that do not have technology or regular WiFi. There are virtual meetings to attend, and administrative tasks that still have to be handled. Is there time to exercise sometime in the day? I really need to lose a few pounds, and I did sign up for a race later in the year.
Working parents have been tasked with a lot right now, and many of us have dug in our heels. We are going to do this. As a teacher, it feels even more poignant, because we will not let our students down. But we are entering new territory, foreign territory, and we need to learn to shift our priorities and re-set our standards.
I am now on my fourth week of trying to juggle everything, and have gone through a metamorphosis. It has taken time to understand what my family needs, what my job needs from me, and what I need in order to thrive during this. I needed to get my kids on a schedule, and I use this term very loosely. They know that when they wake up, both parents will be there to help them get through the day. Some days we will be great at multitasking and get school lessons tackled, while others we will be grateful that our boys like books and have fantastic imaginations. They both have journals and sketch pads, which they have made good use of: the 5-year-old draws leaves and birds, while the 8-year-old has started his own superhero comic series. Is that art? It’s creative, whatever it is.
My kids are adapting well to the new routine, but there are meltdowns (not always from the kids) for not being able to play with friends, from the new schedule, from me trying to keep the kids from being online and in front of a screen all day, to insisting everyone eats at least half a banana for breakfast and five carrot sticks at lunch.
In terms of teaching, there are a few new realities that I need to accept:
I am not designed to be an online teacher, so I will do my best but there will be other websites or teacher stations that are flashier.
Many of my students do not have access to technology, so unless we deliver the assignments on paper, they will not do them.
Many of my students have checked out until next fall, and no matter how many ways I try to communicate with them, they are finished for the year.
I will have to put myself on mute during conference calls from time to time to deal with temper tantrums.
The bottom line is that not everything is going to be perfect, and that is going to be all right. We will get through this, and we will be ok.