Trying Not to Fail at Remote Learning

Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

My kids have not been in a classroom since March of 2020. It was that fateful Friday the 13th when the schools closed in Illinois due to COVID-19. We had seen the writing on the wall and kept our kids home that day.

Spring was admittedly a disaster all around. My 2nd grade and 4th grader met with their teachers twice a week for 30 minutes via Zoom, and that was it. Otherwise, they were on their own. My husband and I were juggling work and a toddler as we were thrust into these new circumstances. I’m pretty sure not a lot of learning took place.

I finally threw up my hands and wrote off the end of the school year. They weren’t being graded anyway, per Illinois Department of Education guidance. It was truly survival mode and nothing more.

I knew that Fall would be different. The kids would be graded, and I had a feeling we were in this for the long haul, and the entire school year would be 100% remote learning. We would need to figure out how to make it work.

I set up a “classroom” in our basement. Desks came out of individual bedrooms, and I sectioned off space with dividers. I put up Harry Potter décor to make it fun.

We had some early mishaps, like learning the Zoom schedule and missing assignments, but after a while, it settled into a rhythm. I used a combination of Alexa reminders and silent alarms on my kids’ FitBits to make sure they could attend class unsupervised. The teachers were communicative if there was a problem, but everything seemed to work itself out.

I operated under the assumption that “no news is good news.”

As we rolled into two months of remote learning, the wheels began to fall off the wagon a bit. One teacher told me that she was nearly positive my son was not paying attention in math class. She had sent him private chats, and he had not responded. So whatever he was staring at, it wasn’t math. Another teacher told me that my other son had not attended her class in three days and missed assignments.

I know I’m not alone in feeling like I am failing at remote learning. I can’t be by my kids’ side all day, because I have to work. I wish I had more sight to their assignments, but the way their Google Classrooms are set up, I don’t.

Teachers have been apologetic when they have contacted me, starting with, “I’m sorry, I need you to intervene at this point.” To one, I replied, “No — my son should be apologizing to you.”

But I have to remind myself that my kids are 11 and 8 years old, and this is hard. They weren’t designed to sit in front of a screen all day. They are used to the gentle guidance of their teachers and the interaction of a classroom.

My husband and I talked, and we agreed that the best thing we could do was move their classroom to the main level of the house. We would at least have more sight to what they are doing, and maybe feeling like a parent is “watching” they would be less inclined to do other things during class.

And so this past weekend, we did a giant amount of furniture shifting to section off part of the living room into a “classroom.” Not like we’re having people over anytime soon, so the living room could withstand fewer places to sit in favor of desks.

This marks the third time we have done a major rearranging as a result of the pandemic. The first was the initial classroom setup in the basement. The second was turning our sunroom into a playroom for our 3-year-old. And now moving the classroom into the living room.

But I figure that we have to make the best use out of our space right now. With now 8 months at home and cases skyrocketing everywhere, it is just the five of us contained within the walls of this house.

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