I was sitting on the couch in my living room when I heard the news about digital learning for the 2020-2021 school year. Do you remember where you were?
Sure, I know this isn’t necessarily a major, life-altering moment in history where you’ll never forget where you were when the news broke. But then again, maybe it is? After all, it’s not every day that parents become teachers, and students begin learning from home online. And like those moments in history where you’ll never forget where you were, you’re now charged with the weight of the event’s impact.
Finding a device for each one of your kids.
Teaching your child to navigate digital tools while you navigate your own job.
Adding another thing to the list of parental duties apart from chores, sports, dinner . . .
I am a public elementary school teacher, and I see the stress on parents’ faces in those Zoom calls. I hear it in their voices over the phone. I feel it in my own heart some days. While this time might seem overwhelming and just plain frustrating, here are five truths that every parent with a virtual learning student needs to hear:
The first message our principal spoke to us when we returned to school was that simple. We must have grace for each other—for our students, parents, and colleagues. As teachers, we know this is uncharted territory. We know that you might be struggling. So when that day comes when your child misses the Zoom call or the computer dies in the middle of a lesson, know that we understand. There’s an abundance of grace for you, and we’ll support you with whatever it takes. Remember this truth in the middle of your frustration, and have grace for yourself.
Rely on your child’s teachers.
I promise you that no one is under the impression you’ve recently obtained your official homeschool teacher certification. We understand that you haven’t been a third-grader in quite a few years. With that said, teachers want you to lean on them for every question, concern, or problem. Never feel like you’re alone in helping your child be successful in this. That old cliché, it takes a village, is true. We’re all here for your kids, and we’re rooting for their success!
Set the right environment.
You don’t need to have a magazine-caliber study room for your child to thrive in virtual learning. Your kid will be successful if they feel supported in their work. Teachers try to create an environment for students that’s welcoming, challenging, and safe. For helping kids feel welcome in their learning at home, you might say, “This opportunity to learn from home is exciting to me. I can’t wait to see your growth!” To support them in challenging times, you might say, “I love that even when something is difficult, you don’t give up. You’re growing right before my eyes!” For helping your child feel like it’s safe to make mistakes, you may say, “Good students make mistakes. When you make a mistake, your brain gets bigger!”
Don’t forget to laugh.
In the moment, it’s not even remotely funny when the link doesn’t work. Or the page can’t be found. Or the child is whining. Or the content is beyond your knowledge. In fact, a laugh might strike up an initial urge to fling your device across the room. (No judgement—I’ve been there!) But to navigate these virtual times, it’s necessary to keep things lighthearted. If you can remember that there’s grace and that the assignment will get done at some point—even if that day is tomorrow—you won’t regret it. Your light-hearted smile in these moments will ease your child’s stress and yours as well.
Perhaps now more than ever, our children are experiencing increased levels of change and difficulty. While adversity is a part of life, adults know that resilience is built by being faced with challenges that we learn to overcome. What if this season of COVID-19 is the season your child learns resilience? What if this is when they learn to persevere when things get difficult in math? What if this is when they learn to try another strategy when something isn’t working? This season is critical. Don’t miss it.
This year has been many things for our families, and this virtual school year will bring its own challenges. However, one thing this year will not be is a waste.
It will not be for nothing.
It certainly won’t be a setback.
With you, parent, it will be a year of perspective, change, and growth. Your child is ready, your teacher is ready, and even if you don’t feel like it . . .