COVID-19 has shaken things up for families across the globe. Drastic changes have been made to accommodate parents working from home (or not), finding appropriate child care (or making do without), finding access to technology for multiple members of the family simultaneously and the necessity of suddenly becoming tech savvy without any prior training. Many families are also dealing with other financial, physical, mental, and emotional impacts.
All of this is true for teachers as well. As school campuses have temporarily, but indefinitely closed, teachers have needed to reinvent the wheel, and shift to a model of education that was probably never covered in their university training, practical experience, or previous professional development. At the same time, they are also wearing the hat of moms and dads, husbands and wives, and breadwinners for their families.
Magda is one of KIS’s Early Years 3 teachers. She is also a mother of 2 children, Della who is 8 and in Grade 3 and Oskar who is 4 and in Early Years 1. Her husband, Jordan, also teaches at KIS as one of the Grade 2 teachers.
She has graciously shared what life looks like for her and her family during COVID-19:
A typical day requires our family to work in opposite corners of the house with various computers, laptops, tablets, all sharing WiFi, finding time to eat, making sure there’s a few mental breaks built in, and taking turns to play with Oskar. The demand on technology is real as I am averaging 3-4 Zoom meetings each day, Jordan 2-3x/day, Della 2x/day, and Oskar 2x/week! Then, Jordan and I both need to lesson plan, record videos, post assignments, comment on student work, perform assessments, be available for Q&As for students/parents, conduct our own professional development by attending webinars and conducting research on teaching best practices, and finally trying to find time to help the kids with their school work as well.
I start my day with some much needed “me time” at 7:00 AM to take a walk outside, but by 8:00 AM, I’m on the computer ready to go. Breakfast will be at some point, hopefully before lunch. Jordan has taken responsibility for preparing food, and the family does take breaks together for meals. Then, it is back to work in the afternoon until dinner. After getting the kids to bed around 8:00 PM, Jordan and I are back on our computers until midnight most nights.
In EY3, many students are not able to read just yet, so I need to make sure instructions are simple and easy to follow. I also need to be cognizant that not all families have the same resources, so we have to be creative with assignments as well. We’ve been lucky as EY3’s current Unit of Inquiry is Purposeful Story Telling which has been fairly easy to adapt for home learning without needing much ‘stuff.’ We are doing our absolute best to maintain the core components of the curriculum to make remote learning as productive as possible. KIS provides a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning to provide students with a balance of screen time with off-screen, hands-on tasks.
As an IB school, activities are inquiry based, and in the Early Years especially, the focus is on learning through play. Students learn by making connections within their personal experiences, which does not necessarily look “traditional.” So, sometimes, parents may not realize just how much their children are actually learning through everyday activities at home. Kids do not need formal lectures or worksheets to learn.
For Jordan and I, our teacher roles have preceded our parent roles for now because we need our jobs. While it’s true that we’re together all the time, we don’t get quality time that we would hope for. For now, I have to prioritize my students over my own kids. There’s some mom guilt mixed in this for sure. There are good days and bad days. Some days we’ve managed to find a balance getting work done and spending some time with the kids, but on other days Oskar’s been on the Nintendo for 5 hours. I just keep reminding myself that tomorrow is a new day, and there’s another chance to make it better. Also, to let things go. I am not going to mess up my kids forever if our normal rules get a bit compromised during this time.
For me, the most challenging part about remote learning is missing my students; not being able to just be present in the moment. While seeing everyone’s face in Zoom is great, it just isn’t the same. Managing an EY3 class on Zoom has its own challenges: my normal tricks to get the class’s attention just don’t work as well. I can tell that being away from school is so hard for the students too.
There have been a few silver linings in all of this. I’ve learned so much more about Google, and I’ve become more way more tech savvy. When faced with something I don’t know how to do, I’ve been forced to teach myself. This is especially gratifying.
The other big plus is that despite the fact that we’re not getting as much quality time as I’d hope, just by physically being together, our family has really become a lot closer. We’re listening to each other and communicating with each other better. It’s been great to see Oskar’s vocabulary grow and watch Della step up to help out in so many ways. She’s taken ownership of her school work, and we haven’t needed to constantly remind her. She’s spent quality time with her brother when Jordan and I could not. The beginning was really hard, but through this process, we’re becoming closer as a family.
I’ve found that it’s really important to manage your own work-life balance. For me, what has really worked is getting out of the house every morning to exercise. I’m counting my steps to make sure I’m not in front of a screen all day long. I’ve managed to virtually meet some friends on Zoom. I’m a big believer in essential oils, which have helped to create a calm environment in the house and reduce my stress. I also practice mindfulness, being conscious of my breathing, and reminding myself that every day is a new day and a new chance to try again. I’ve also started a garden which has been a fun outlet.
I want to share a picture that has helped me cope with all these changes:
I think it’s so important for everyone in the KIS community to give ourselves and each other time. The process of change is hard, and nothing is going to happen overnight. Growth will happen, but we need to be patient. When we’re looking back on this difficult time, there will be beauty to see despite the struggles.