Education in the age of Pandemic

I realize this post might be seen as a little late to the game, but I don’t think the underlying truth is any less valid or the danger of this situation will allow for a change going into the fall semester. Anyone who knows me well will remember that I had a vision to teach in my second career. Those same people all had valid concerns about whether or not my temperament was conducive to student-teacher relationships.

Well, they were right to worry. I have now taught a half of a semester of first grade and I would rather do the Hokey Pokey on gravel bed with glass shards mixed in than tell you what that was all about. Someone told me during the height of the pandemic that our kids will be the first generation to be home schooled by day drinkers and I thought wow that sounds terrible. That was about the same time I figured out homeschooling a first grader and pre-k kid is equally terrible. I want to give a shout out to Terri Peters and Today for their article on the funniest posts from parents about homeschooling and keep in mind this was still March when they published, so we had been max of two weeks into our home school experiment. I am linking the article at the end of the post, but I highly suggest checking it out.

I love having two girls, I often feel that I was meant to be a girl dad. That being said I know I was not meant to teach them, my own or anyone else’s after the number of crying fits, taking a break, and running to mommy. My girls had trouble adjusting to it too. I am serious in a fashion when I say our kids may be lucky to escape their pandemic era schooling having learned everything at all. There were some days where my oldest and I would sit there staring at each other trying to figure out how to explain to the other our point of view and also what the hell the other one was trying to say. It was a barrel of laughs, so I see this post coming in three parts. First is the realities of the setup for our sudden requirement to home school, second is why that is a terrible idea, third is how it progressed and my belief of our forward outlook.

So, I think everyone can probably remember where they were and what they were doing when they were informed of their new vocation. I was at home reading a book while the kids rode bikes when my significant other informed me that we would be homeschooling based on the closure of campuses. I also remember her being very forward thinking and called it in mid-March that it would at least last through the end of the school year, but I digress. I sat there for a minute thinking about this turn of events and thought, well, I hope private tutors are still a thing because I don’t know who the school system thinks is going to teach these kids.

I opened the emails, read the websites, picked up the materials and opened the teacher prepared lessons plans. There was no preparation though for the parents other than, hey we’ll cut you some slack for the first week before we come after you for your kids missing assignments. Let’s be honest, most of us weren’t used to dealing with our kids all day every day locked up in the house for any real amount of time and were ready to kick them out after the second week of “Spring Break”. Look I know I am not a good teacher for kids, that’s why I did not take up the studies to teach kids. Giving me a lesson plan and a metric poo ton of sites to use is like handing a blind man a map of the United States and asking him to navigate his way from DC to Los Angeles. Yeah, it might happen, but it would take a miracle. If you want good results you have to set people up for success and acknowledge when things are just really bad ideas.

This is not a shot taken at the school system we are in, it wasn’t an easy situation for them. However, I know I was not the only person considering getting an OSHA class A biological contamination suit and rebreather and sending them back to school after our “freebie” week. I also heard from a number of other parents whose kids attended these Google meetup classes and had teachers who were pressuring parents and students about staying up with assignments. To all of that business, I say, you should just consider it lucky when my kid showed up at all and that there were ANY assignments turned in. Neither students nor parents were ready for this and oh by the way we are dealing with a pandemic going on around us! So, you know, no big deal there right, of course I’m going to be a great teacher for my kids and my kids are going to automatically adjust to having school in their home with distractions of siblings around them…right…yeah us either.

Now as to why this is a terrible idea. Most of us send our kids to school even if we had the time and job capability to teach them at home for two reasons. The first is that we realize we aren’t the best person to teach any kids, especially our own and second the kids don’t want you to be their teacher. School teachers greatest advtange is that while they build relationships and care for their students…at the end of the day they send the kids back home. Now not only did we have to teach whatever grade it was, but at the end of the day they were still here! You can’t take them somewhere to run out the energy because parks and entertainment venues were not open for the same reason you can’t ship them off to school in the morning! It was like the worlds worst double whammy.

Then there was the actual parents teaching school part. I can take a lesson plan and rationalize why it’s important and a great schedule to get it done, but my kids can’t. Moltke said, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy”, and no lesson plan survives first contact with a first grader who doesn’t want to do it. I can force my kid to complete homework or stay on a schedule of this block of teaching at this time, but I can’t do both! It would come time for a morning recess, the kids would run out to ride their bikes and I would head to beer fridge to go watch them and reflect on the mornings accomplishments. Often there was more substance to the beer than our accomplishments in the “classroom”. With great tears, protestations of not understanding and asking mommy to referee between us the assignments would get completed later into the evening which would invariably lead to another trip to the beer fridge. Thus began two of the longest months of my and my children’s lives.

Last, going forward I have in a fit of silly optimism signed my child up for district sponsored, fun, online courses. These courses provide video tutorials for every assignment which my child watches and then I end up explaining to them. I can’t tell you how much I regret this decision. I thought it was bad trying to get her to do school work during the year, but now I have another month of self-imposed pain. I just watch the videos myself now first so I don’t have to do my research with a student waiting on me. It’s supposed to help them keep sharp and prepare for the next academic year, which I fully believe will start at home. Yes, I am saying now, I don’t believe the kids will start back on campus at the beginnig of the next school term. I could be wrong and I hope so, but I think parents are going to be in the same boat still. I’m just telling you I think mine has sprung a leak and I doubt I am the only one.

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