Working & Teaching from Home During the Pandemic
By Kathy Jamil, Principal, Elmwood Village Charter School
What an incredible responsibility that millions now have to manage! As if trying to balance working from home, caring for our families, dealing with the stress and re-adjusting our lives wasn’t enough, we are asking parents to teach their children at home. The fact that millions of households are trying to do this doesn’t seem to make us feel any better, in part because we haven’t figured out how this is all supposed to work within our own unique family dynamics and we don’t know how long this will go on for. But we are resilient, creative humans! Once we can identify what we do know, what we have, and what we can control, we will be empowered to reassess and re-create a realistic family routine.
Find your home-life groove
Is walking your dog a must at a certain time of day? Do you find that your children need you the most during a specific time while other times are more independent? Do you have a peak performance time for online work, where your cognitive energy is high?
Planning out pockets of optimal time for the important things that matter the most gives us some control of the day-to-day and allows our family to establish a way of being that is balanced and not overwhelming. Below is a sample of questions to ponder when creating your routines and finding you family’s groove:
- Does my child need to be online to learn and if so, how many hours is needed a day? How independent are they and what parts should I be sure to sit with them?
- What times of the day does my child’s have the strongest focus and highest cognitive time that I can schedule their learning around?
- When do I find that my child needs me the most emotionally and parent-child time is wanting?
- Are there times during the day that my child’s tends to self-play and has an ability to distract themselves – Benefits of Boredom?
- When is my child at their highest physical energy so I can plan to play with them in the yard for a bit every day?
Working from home
- What is my job requiring of me in terms of a work schedule and how many hours a day?
- What are at least two peak times that I feel the sharpest and can get the best cognitive work done?
- Can I split up my work hours throughout the day?
Extended family, friends, and neighbors
- To what capacity do I need to set time to check-in with my parent, elderly neighbor, or colleague over the phone or online platform?
- Can I block some time in the evening hours to talk with friends or hangout on an online call?
- What are our daily and weekly household tasks?
- How can we divvy up these tasks with the members of our household?
- Do we need to create a schedule of who does what, and when?
- When is my physical energy peak for me to enjoy my daily run?
- What time of day works for me and my partner to spend quiet time together?
- What are the practices that give me the greatest joy and give me peace? How can I ensure I have an opportunity to do that at least once a day?
- What spiritual or mindfulness practices ground and fulfill me that I can do throughout the day?
This list is not exhaustive or applicable to everyone; create a list that speaks to your life. If you don’t have the answers to these questions, spend a few days just observing the pulse of your household, jotting down your observations. You may be surprised that you have more energy to work in the evening. The idea is to brainstorm what your home-work-parent life needs are so you can create a routine that works for you.
Planning it out – Creativity a must!
Thinking about optimal times for these practices, begin scheduling ranges of time for important things that matter, for example: 6am – 9am mindfulness breathing, morning run, prep breakfast, get kids prepped for the day, etc. Who says what must happen when? Change it up the way it needs to work.
Include the members of your family in this process so they have a sense of ownership around the schedules they had helped to create. Try to avoid a tight, hourly schedule from the get-go as it’s easy to veer off with everything being so new. It’s important to ensure you have some flexibility for those unpredictable circumstances.
Am I doing enough for their learning?
Though these are unprecedented times, we cannot ignore the fact that parents are asked to teach from home on the fly, many of whom still need to work. And though schools are supporting home instruction for families in different ways, even with the most structured, supportive online teaching, there will be a need for parents to be involved in some capacity.
Last week, as we were deciding what learning students could continue at home and were trying to quickly provide last minute resources for families, I recalled my years as a home-schooling parent and how I had the luxury of time to prepare myself and my household for that experience, yet here we were throwing parents into this in what seemed to be overnight.
And working from home? How many of us had an online meeting interrupted by the pet, (my cat starts to meow every time she sees me talking to my computer screen), the child that you thought was busy doing their own thing suddenly needs you, the partner who decides to ask you where you put the mayonnaise, or cringe at some potentially embarrassing noise in the background that may surface on that recorded Zoom call? But the reality is, who can’t relate today? Are we not all in this together?
If you are teaching at home, fret not! Remember, you are your child’s FIRST teacher and you’ve been their teacher their whole lives. Don’t beat yourself up about spending hours teaching online or one-on-one. True learning happens when we are cognitively engaged and that can look like many different things for your child. If you see your child building a rocket out of paper cups, that’s an indicator they are using their resilient minds to be cognitively engaged in creativity, inquiry, and discovery. Understand that your child is learning from their daily experiences and the most important thing they need from you is your solace and grounding support during uncertain times. Relay to them that they are safe and loved, and the rest we will figure out together.
We are all learning how to deal with this together and as an educator, it would be foolish to expect our students to return to school and pick up where we would have been had they not been out of school. I do hope, however, that this time with our families is one that allows our children to reconnect with families in an even more meaningful way, and have them realize that there was no better place to be during this time than in the place where they are loved the most.