When classes dismissed on Thursday, March 12, 2020, parents, teachers, and students had no idea what was in store for them. Excited students and exhausted teachers closed out the third marking period preparing for a week of spring break. Everyone was unaware that this would be the last day they would see their teachers and friends face to face as spring break turned into fourth quarter break. As the days unfolded and Americans began to realize we were in a serious health care crisis caused by the virus we would come to know as Coronavirus, or Covid19. Leaders had to figure how to protect, not only themselves, but every person in the states they had been elected to lead. With schools closing for the remainder of the year, teachers had to partner with parents to educate our children during this Pandemic.
Being a parent of five school age children, I was abruptly thrown into a new role as a full time teacher. It felt a little overwhelming because I had a kindergartener and a fifth grader that I didn’t want missing such a critical final nine weeks of school. Already having three high school graduates, I knew firsthand that the final quarter is when teachers are focusing on making sure their students are prepared to transition to the next grade level. Students are also taking State required and benchmark tests. I felt extreme pressure to keep their learning track moving forward without digressing.
My next thoughts, I believe, were aligned with lots of other new Distance Learning parents. How can I be the most effective teacher and parent of multiple children? The schools recommended that we keep the kids on their same daily routine. However, that routine didn’t best fit my schedule. Never being a morning person, I had to create a schedule that was best for my family. That schedule for us was pajamas, play, and work. I allowed them to wake up, eat breakfast, then play until about one o’clock. At one, I worked with my kindergartner while my older kids did independent work. At two o’clock I moved on to my fourth grader for an hour followed by my fifth grader at five. Luckily for me, my eighth and eleventh graders had experience in being in a digital school environment, so they were used to doing everything on the computer already. I found the older girls simply needed positive motivation, and monitoring, since they are easily distracted with technology. Before bed is when we incorporated twenty minutes of reading each night.
In the midst of a worldwide increase of COVID-19 cases, with Florida cases in the top two of all the states, schools have been perplexed about what the 2020-21 school year should look like. Orange County revealed three options for parents to choose from. In School Face to Face Learning, Launch Ed, which enables kids to stay home and work virtually with a teacher during normal school hours, or Orange County Virtual School (OCVS), where children are assigned a teacher but you work from home on your own schedule. Already deciding in June not to send my children back to school for at least the first semester, gave me time to prepare myself and kids for a new scheduling system. That being said I chose the OCVS option. I enjoyed the flexibility of not being on a routine. The ability to work morning, afternoon, or evening at your own pace with five school age children is ideal for me. It alleviates the stress of trying to work with each of them under time restrictions. The students can stay on track or work ahead. I did decide to implement a work schedule from 11-3 for the year. I know this year will be more structured than the last quarter since everyone had to unexpectedly change lesson plans to adapt to a digital learning style, all while dealing with their own personal new life normal.
No matter which choice you decide is best for your family, remember we’re all in this together! Take all the proper precautions to keep your family and others safe as we all navigate through this pandemic. If you have chosen to stay at home, utilize older siblings, family, and friends as support if you need additional help. We all have our children’s physical, mental, and emotional health as a top priority. Incorporate breaks and exercise in their daily routine. Don’t forget to take care and make personal time for yourself. Enjoy this time with your family, have fun, stay safe and healthy. Happy teaching!