When I graduated from college in the 70’s with my teaching degree, I never envisioned myself substitute teaching in the comfort of my own home, in my bare feet. But that is exactly where I found myself in the spring of 2020!
Right before Christmas I had agreed to teach a 5th grade class for a teacher expecting a baby in April. The timing worked out well because I had a trip to Norway in March and would be finished by June when my daughter and I were to travel to England. When I arrived home from Norway, I was invited to come sit in on a Zoom training session “just in case the school had to go virtual”………. and I finished out the school year at my house with a computer, teaching reading and English, to three 5th grade classes.
I spent a week sitting in on the teacher’s Zoom classes before it was my turn to lead the sessions. I don’t know what her first day on Zoom was like but at the end of mine I was exhausted and had a headache. I thought I knew what I was doing but within the first 15 minutes I lost my class. They could see me but I saw a Welcome to Zoom screen. I’m sure there was some eye rolling on their side (or laughing) and almost tears on mine.
So I started the meeting again and there they were, 18 faces, but some of them weren’t moving or blinking. Hmmmmmm. Keep in mind that these children attend a private school where their parents were still paying tuition and still expected an excellent education for their children.
I’m sure everything they tried with their teacher, in the beginning, they tried again with me. Freeze your screen or stop the video, not doing work that was done as a class, coming in late because it wouldn’t let you sign in, and the list goes on. As a result, some of these children were not successful virtual learners. They didn’t take it seriously or worry about accountability.,
Many students are successful in a virtual classroom but if your child isn’t one of them I have a few tips for you.
First of all, keep a regular school schedule. Don’t let your child stay up past their regular school bedtime. Don’t let them sleep in until the last possible minute before their virtual class. Don’t let them skip breakfast or bring it to the virtual classroom. Do make sure they are dressed in school attire. Do ask your child, should you see them away from the virtual classroom, if they asked the teacher for permission to leave. All of these send them the message that virtual school is just as important as in person school.
Like many of you, your child is working from home and needs a designated workspace. When trying to pick out a space think of your own workspace. Chances are you have everything you need close by so you can put your hands on anything you need quickly. Your child’s workspace needs to be the same. School books, paper, pencil, notecards, etc., should be at the workspace. It should be somewhere quiet where they can work alone without distractions. It should have a flat work surface and a chair to sit in. The number one thing that should be missing from the workspace is any other electronics! Cellphones, TV’s and other devices have no place in a virtual classroom. You also don’t belong in their virtual classroom, so don’t sit off to the side and coach them. Take this situation as a good time to start sending them down the path of an independent learner.
Most likely you aren’t getting a folder once a week with your child’s graded work. You are going to have to check grades once a week online (folder day might be a good day to choose). If that’s not an option for you, check in with the teacher to see if all work has been turned in and if there’s any area where you might need to help them. In the classroom they are accountable to the teacher but at home you need to take on that role. Ask your child to show you what they learned each day. Ask them to explain concepts to you or to tell you about the book they are reading. Ask if they have homework and tell them that when they finish (and show you), the cellphone, TV, etc. will be available.
Sometimes being successful is all about the accountability!