My sons have been home schooling since our schools first closed on 18 March this year. That equates to four and a half months of my having to drag my youngest reluctantly from his bed each school day, feed him and force him to sit in front of his computer for at least some of the day. It also involved me having to try to get to grips with all his Google classrooms, on-line tasks and their submissions and even his school email. It has been hard work to say the least.
I had no such issues with Gregory, my older son. Greg is exactly like me, hugely driven and determined. Nothing was going to stand in the path of his personal goals and success. Greg simply got stuck in and spend most of my 8 hour working day, sitting next to me at the table working away. He battled with maths problems, hammering away at IT concepts until they made sense and filled work books with detailed and copious notes for every subject. In fact, Covid-19 and the lockdown seem to have resulted in Greg really coming into his own. His mid-year examination results are rolling in now and so far he has achieved 3 subjects with overall mark percentages in the 90%s, two in the high 80%s and one mark in the 70%s which is his second language and quite tough.
On the other side of the spectrum, Michael found it very hard to cope and did as little as possible. He took to running away or locking himself in his bedroom. I was frustrated, I couldn’t understand what the problem was and I blamed it on the teachers. They weren’t doing enough to keep him engaged. They weren’t assigning enough work. What was going on? Why were they ignoring my son’s class?
I managed to keep him reasonably up to date with English, Afrikaans, Maths and History but Science and Geography fell by the wayside. Michael said the teachers weren’t posting anything for these subjects. I was trying to cope with the demands of my job which escalated over this period and never got around to unravelling what was happening with these two subjects. Then the exams rolled around and Michael needed to prepare and study.
I always test him on his work and when I pulled out his science and geography notebooks I discovered they were completely empty. He hadn’t done any of the work for the whole term. Initially I was livid. How did this happen? Why didn’t the teachers know that he hadn’t done any of the work? And then I sat down and thought about it.
I thought about how quickly Covid-19 came upon us and how the teachers had to change their entire teaching strategy almost overnight. I thought about how much effort and work had gone into their preparing all the material for the boys and how difficult it must be for some of the teachers, especially the older ones, to suddenly have to become adept at Google classroom and other on-line resources which they had only used occasionally in the past.
I considered my own child and I came to realise that Michael was just not coping with the on-line teaching. He just didn’t know where to start. That wasn’t the teachers faults. It wasn’t really his fault either as Michael has a processing problem and attended a remedial school until last year. It was just how it was and I had to do something to help him and to help his teachers help him. So I took control. I emailed every single teacher and got access to all the classrooms and tools. I sat with Michael and forced him to read all the work and complete all the missed assignments. I caught him up by establishing a strict routine for him and breaking the incomplete work and the other study material up into bite sized chunks that he could cope with. The teachers were helpful. They gave him additional time to complete the assignments he had missed. They were supportive of our efforts. Michael’s results have also rolled in and he passed all his subjects and achieved marks in the high 70’s for Science, Life Science, History and Maths.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, because I didn’t have a clue how hard it is to teach children. How much effort is required to break down the material into workable lessons and practice sessions on the work covered. It has made me appreciate the job of a teacher much more.
Why are parents frustrated with teachers now and why is on-line teaching so difficult? It is because the parents have to drive the children to perform. In a normal school situation, the peer group plays a big role. Kids compete with each other and discuss themes and lessons which capture their attention. When the kids are at home, the teachers provide the tools and facilitate lessons BUT, the child has to have a good deal of self discipline, self control and ambition to grasp these tools effectively and motivate him/herself to really learn and absorb. If the child doesn’t do this, which most of them don’t, this task falls to the parents. This is tough for parents as we are also working and have limited time. It makes us feel like we are doing the teachers job. We are not, we are forcing our children to be disciplined and to do their work. It’s not the same thing at all.
I must admit that I think on-line learning is horrible for teachers and students. It is really hard to engage kids on-line and capture their interest. They are not forthcoming in Google classrooms, they don’t speak. Getting them to participate is like pulling teeth.
I have a lot of regard for our teachers who are doing their best to play the game with the cards they’ve been dealt this year. It’s not easy for anyone and we all have to pull together to get through this difficult time.
I wrote this post in response to Jessica Norrie’s post about teachers and the attitude of the general public to teaching which you can read here: https://jessicanorrie.wordpress.com/2020/07/24/those-who-can-teach-and-translate/