How are you hanging in there, academic librarians who are also parents and caregivers? I’m not great. My guess is you are tired, frustrated, grateful, sad, motivated, and every other emotion in the full range of human feeling. Some of us have had to send our children back to school or daycare. Some of us are homeschooling. Some of us are facilitating the virtual learning efforts of our assigned or chosen schools. My family is in the latter camp, so these comics and Twitter threads and memes are highly relatable.
My partner and I swap parent-on-call responsibilities mid-day, allowing one person to sit in silence in our makeshift office (read: desk in bedroom) while the other sits next to our kiddo to make sure he logs in when needs to, help him understand what’s happening, reteach concepts, and make sure assignments are completed and worthwhile. Our kiddo has some learning differences and attention issues that require constant parental supervision and intervention at times, but quite honestly these kids are working on at least 5 different e-learning platforms on a given day many of which have terrible interfaces and may or may not work actually work with their OS or browser.
As stressful as the day can be, this is the most direct window I’ve ever had into overpopulated public elementary schools driven by standardized testing that cater to the “normal learner” (whoever that may be). I can see my son struggling and wonder how difficult the average in person school day must be for him. I notice the differences in ability between my kid and his classmates and how his autism plays out in conversation with his teacher and peers. It’s easy to see how a teacher’s words can have a huge impact on students (for good or ill) and how easily a class can devolve into chaos (especially online).
I hesitate to make this a “lessons learned” post. Virtual third grade is about my son, not about me. But I do see moments of teaching and learning that make me smile and moments that make me cringe. They make me reflect on teaching in academia and how much thought I put into some areas of my teaching and how little thought I put into others.
I marvel at how positive reinforcement before a test can make kids feel like the smartest person on the planet and how one unkind phrase–“You should know this already. Even a kindergartener knows this.”– can sink a kid’s self-esteem for the entire day. I wonder about my own language in the classroom.
I can see how some students, my son included, just need way more time to complete assignments than other kids. I wonder how this plays out in the physical classroom, and know that this is the reason my son would come home with a stack of worksheets to complete. Is it fair? How many worksheets does it take to “demonstrate learning?”
I see the need for movement breaks and watch my son skateboard across the living room while eating a popsicle during a much needed break, then return to his iPad refreshed and ready to go.
I can see kids engagement and motivation start to tank after a synchronous sessions goes too far over time and I wonder about my own Zoom meetings and classes. How long is too long online?
I hear my son ask, “When can I talk to my friends?” and wonder why it’s so hard to create peer-to-peer connections and learning in virtual school settings. I worry about my kiddo feeling lonely and sad.
I see the difference a good facilitator can make in a virtual classroom discussion and just how easy it is for a discussion to go off the rails with a bunch of 8 year olds. To be fair, it’s just as easy for us, too. I can see how some children struggle to be noticed in a virtual classroom and wonder who we are leaving behind.
I worry about all the children we aren’t seeing.
These are just a few of the things I’m learning from virtual 3rd grade. What are you learning?