Parent Teachers During COVID-19 Online Distanced Learning

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Lakeridge teacher Matt Briggs’s work space from home.

It would seem that a global pandemic that has forced people to stay home would give people more free time to do things. Ironically, people find themselves losing windows of time to grab a breath of fresh air.

Many of these people are parent teachers. School is difficult enough, with the constricted schedules and the condensed semesters forcing both students and teachers to have less time to complete tasks, prepare lessons and fully cover the necessary materials. But when you are responsible for other people’s children as well as your own, some teachers say 24 hours in a day is not enough.

Young children demand a lot of attention as it is, and when that attention is split between work and home, the divide between school and family is erased.

Lakeridge teacher Matt Briggs shares what his schedule looks like between teaching high school students and being a full-time parent to twins, 5-year-old boys Ben and Calvin. Kindergarten students cannot learn on their own or through the computer screen, so much of the day is up to parents to help guide students and make sure that they are still learning and paying attention.

His wife sits with his sons for three hours in the morning, then they switch back and forth until a Lakeridge graduate comes and watches their sons until the evening. 

We just keep repeating it, it’s kind of like that movie Groundhog’s Day,” said Briggs. “It’s pretty intense and that I think is the thing. You know, my wife has some flexibility. I can’t imagine for teachers that both have the job of teaching. I would imagine for some, it’s much more challenging. But yeah, I mean, they’re long days.”

Social studies teacher Janell Cinquini, who is a mother to two sons Corbin and Cole, also sheds light on how her life as a teacher and a mother has been impacted. During her classes, she said, “About 12 minutes into first period, I’m muting myself and then turning to them and yelling at them to get on their iPads for their school.”

Janell Cinquini and her family

The stress of juggling multiple responsibilities is a universal feeling by all teachers right now. In a recent survey by the National Education Association, “55% of veteran teachers with more than 30 years of experience said they were now considering leaving the procession. So did 20% of teachers with less than 10 years’ experience,” wrote Natasha Singer from the New York Times.

“Yeah, I’m tired. It’s not necessarily like a physical tired,” said Cinquini. “I was only teaching some part time, so first quarter I only taught two classes, and right now I’m only teaching three. So I can’t even imagine the teachers that are teaching for four.”

The pressure mounts on parent-teacher’s shoulders not only to ensure that their children are receiving an education, but also to talk to them about the COVID-19 pandemic and teach them how to adapt to a different lifestyle than that of over 10 months ago. Some kids, like Briggs’s two sons, have no recollection of a life prior to the pandemic simply because they are too young to remember what life was like one year ago. COVID-19 will undoubtedly leave traumatic imprints on everyone this year on varying degrees, but it cannot be denied that there is an uncertainty of how children will carry this year with them in the future.

“I’m pretty sure that they’re permanently changed by, you know, like, they avoid people. They won’t go close to people, they haven’t been to the stores in months, like those kinds of things. I think we’ll have long- term effects on them,” said Briggs. “But that part of stuff is not a challenge as a parent, it’s more getting them to sit there and, you know, get their stuff out and listen to the teacher.”

Parents to younger children do not need to worry about managing the same emotions and turmoil that people our age have experienced because of this pandemic. There is a sense of loss with older students, such as the class of 2020 missing their end of the year celebration, and the senior class of 2021 missing what could be their entire senior year.

Children do not need to manage that loss, and the magnitude of the pandemic is at a scale too great for them to process. But there comes that question for parents: what can you tell your children, and what should you avoid telling them?

“We’ve been pretty clear like COVID is dangerous, they need to stay away from it, and some people died, and they have questions about that… they’re pretty open to understanding that too. I think, you know, they understand the severity of it. But still, like I said, is that they don’t quite understand it fully,” said Briggs. “[We] like, watch TV and they’re like ‘oh they’re not six feet apart,’ you’re like, well, this is a year ago, two years ago, or you know, just a movie, and they kind of see things a little bit different.”

COVID-19 has taken much from people’s lives, but for some fortunate people, it meant getting to spend more time with family and subtly overlook the small changes that happen to a person when you see them every day, even if alone time has disappeared from people’s lives.

“I mean that’s definitely one of the hardest parts about the pandemic in general,” said Cinquini. “Like I don’t think anyone feels like they get the alone time, the same way.”

“I got to see them learn I know exactly what they’re doing,” said Briggs. He gets to ask them what they learned that day, already knowing full well what they learned. “I don’t think they’re quite as far as they would have been if they were in class but they’re definitely progressing.”

As the days go by it seems less and less likely that students will return to school any time soon, so this is what life will continue to be like for a while. Now would be a good time to give your appreciation and thanks to your teachers, as they are working overtime to prepare lessons and teach their students while also juggling the responsibilities of being a parent.