Sep 25, 2020

This Is Not Sustainable. Parents, It Is Time To Act.

This Is Not Sustainable. Parents, It Is Time To Act.

If remote learning is breaking you, here are 8 things to do.

If remote learning is breaking you, here are 8 things to do.

overwhelmed child is upset. This is not sustainable 2020
overwhelmed child is upset. This is not sustainable 2020
overwhelmed child is upset. This is not sustainable 2020

If they don’t already, at the rate things are going, most children who are remote learning right now will hate learning by June.

It’s not even October, and in the past twenty-four hours, three separate friends have reached out to tell me that they are at their breaking point.

One 7-year old has twenty Zoom calls per week.

One 9th grader is required to use 19 different apps or websites, several on his own personal smartphone. (Not every kid in his grade has one.)

One mom, who has a Master’s degree in education and taught the very grades her children are currently in, said her “self-esteem is in the toilet” because watching her kids stare at computer screens all day is like watching the “soul being sucked out of them.”

One parent of multiple children has to help with 27 separate logins. DAILY.

My own son is a 7th grader and of his six classes, only one will provide him a physical textbook, even though if he were in school, he’d have composition books, pencils, and real books. Why is this different because we are remote? The district gave out laptops; why not books?

I understand that schools were asked to pivot to a completely different way of teaching when we went into quarantine.

I understand that for some families, there are silver linings to slowed-down morning routines, more time together, and less time in cars.

I understand that many teachers, who are already asked to take bullets for our children, and who are often parents themselves, went above and beyond to try and stay connected to their students this spring, and most continue to put forth their absolute best efforts this fall.

I understand we are in the “disillusionment” stage of a disaster, six months into this global pandemic.

And just when we most needed a break to recharge, the summer offered little chance for a breath of fresh air because the air on the West Coast was literally filled with wildfire smoke.

While there are some schools who have figured out a way to do remote learning better (my daughter’s part-time homeschool program, for example), most districts have cut-and-pasted their in-person learning model and plopped it onto a screen.

But good educators know this isn’t how learning works. Homeschool programs and even online school programs built specifically to be remote prior to the pandemic will tell you this isn’t how they do it.

Yet across the country, families are scrambling to balance work, mental health, and remote learning schedules. Parents are reaching their breaking point, and we haven’t even hit the holidays yet.

What is the ultimate goal here? Children are not small adults, yet we are treating them like little office workers.

Even in pre-pandemic times, asking children to shift every hour from one subject to the next is counter to what we expect in the workplace. Ideally, at work, we have time to dive deeply into a topic, problem-solve with colleagues, reflect, react, and process.

Imagine if at our places of work, every 60 minutes a bell would ring, signaling us to pick up our supplies, move to a different room, and focus our attention on an entirely different subject. How productive would we be?

And yet, not only is this what we expected of children pre-pandemic (the industrialization of public education), but we’ve taken it to the next level now with remote learning, where the physical scenery never changes but the Zoom background does, where we as parents are also trying to work and live and supervise and, well…parent.

Children who can’t read yet have to navigate Zoom menus; tweens who haven’t even mastered a paper calendar now have five distinct places in Schoology to find their assignments and keep track of them; and high schoolers are suddenly frazzled college students without the fun and independence.

H(ow My Son Feels About Remote Learning, as Drawn During Online Math Class, 2020)

Then we expect them not to chat in the chat box, not to surf the internet for silly memes, not to play Minecraft during Math.

Adults are terrible at managing digital distractions; how is it fair we hold children to a higher standard, especially when school has never looked like this before, and no child in the history of ever has had to manage a digital calendar of 19 video-conferencing calls before they were ten years old?

This “plug and play,” mini-office-worker-approach won’t work, and it is killing whatever joy our children have left for learning.

This is wrong.

This is not education.

We are teaching our children to hate learning, and in our current world I cannot think of anything worse than raising a generation who won’t see the benefits of curiosity and inquiry.

The number of parents — actually, mothers, because we all know that mothers carry the bulk of this burden — whose lives have been violently disrupted by the pandemic, and now, further impeded by the parental demands of remote learning, is growing and crosses socioeconomic lines. Of course, privileged families will ride this out more easily than those without resources, and of course that is abhorrent and unfair, but the reality is, no one is getting out of this unscathed, and collateral damage is being done to all our children.

I do not know what to be more upset about first. I do not know which fight to have today. I have outrage fatigue.

But as I hear from and read about how other parents feel, I do know that this is not sustainable.

Children do not learn when they are stressed. Families do not function when parents are stressed. And children and families are stressed.

Please understand: This is not the fault of teachers. I was a teacher for twelve years and I know how much teachers fight to give students what they need and deserve. I cannot fathom the challenge of teaching remotely, even though I know I would do my damnedest to try. Teachers, who are also often parents, are struggling too. This isn’t why they went into education. And they know remote learning is a paltry substitute for the relationships they build in person.

This is not sustainable.

As I wrote about recently, we can do hard things. Now that we know we can, we must.

So, parents, here is our call to action:

  1. Ask that your child’s school stop grading and taking attendance. And opt your child out of all standardized testing this year. (For more parent resources, check out this Toolkit by Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood). It is outrageous that schools expect children to be tested under these circumstances (well, any circumstances really, but that’s for a different article).

  2. Ask the schools to prioritize child-directed, project-based learning. We want our children to be engaged and interested; let them select topics to focus on, then build curricular content around that.

  3. We want our children to love learning. Ask the teachers how you can support them to reinvigorate that love of learning and how you can help nurture their curiosity. The literal future of our country depends on it.

  4. Focus on audio-based learning options (like podcasts, audiobooks, and music) as it is the only truly safe form of digital technology (companies like Ellodee are on to this). Demand physical textbooks and materials. If a school district can distribute laptops, they should be able to distribute books from the school libraries empty of children but full of books.

  5. Stop the rat race. Don’t worry about grades. Nothing is normal. This is NOT about achievement. This is about doing what is best for your kids. If your kids are miserable, stop fighting it. Advocate for their mental health. They WILL NOT LEARN ANYWAY if they are unhappy and stressed.

  6. Use your damn voice. Stop complaining about things on social media and start writing letters to your principals and superintendents and state leaders. Testify at your school board meetings. They’re all virtual now so it is easier to “attend.” It does make a difference, and at the very least you are putting your experience into a public record. Finally, demand state legislators change the required minutes of instruction.

  7. Find like-minded parents who share your concerns and support each other. If your kid is thriving in remote learning, that’s wonderful. You still can use your voice to help all the others who aren’t thriving. Support your teachers, but demand better for everyone. They often can’t raise their own voices because they’re afraid of losing their jobs. So you have to use yours. If you have privilege, use it for good.

  8. Of course, if we really want to make an impact, it may be time for a collective parent strike. Refuse to log in. If you and your kid are already miserable and unable to get work done, this will be no more difficult than what you’re already doing, and if we join together, we can send a strong message. Actions speak louder than words.

This is not sustainable.

The time to act is now.

The Screentime Consultant Logo Footer image

Emily Cherkin’s mission is to empower parents to better understand and balance family screentime by building a Tech-Intentional™ movement.

Copyright © 2024 The Screentime Consultant, LLC | All Rights Reserved. | Tech-Intentional™

and The Screentime Consultant, LLC™ are registered trademarks.

The Screentime Consultant Logo Footer image

Emily Cherkin’s mission is to empower parents to better understand and balance family screentime by building a Tech-Intentional™ movement.

Copyright © 2024 The Screentime Consultant, LLC | All Rights Reserved. | Tech-Intentional™

and The Screentime Consultant, LLC™

are registered trademarks.

The Screentime Consultant Logo Footer image

Emily Cherkin’s mission is to empower parents to better understand and balance family screentime by building a Tech-Intentional™ movement.

Copyright © 2024 The Screentime Consultant, LLC | All Rights Reserved. | Tech-Intentional™

and The Screentime Consultant, LLC™ are registered trademarks.