Our First Week With E-Learning

With COVID-19 spreading rapidly across the world, everyone is taking precautions.  Our school district has implemented e-learning days for our students.  Logins were sent home in the beginning of November with a note saying that the schools would use e-learning days in the case school was called off for snow days.  This alternative is meant to keep the learning going, and allow the schools to not have to add extra make-up days at the end of the year.

But now e-learning has taken on a new form. Rather than a couple of snow days needing to be made up, it’s weeks, maybe months of school missed.  Teachers were not prepared for this.  Actual lesson plans ran out in the first two days; they were not prepared for e-learning to be implemented long-term.  The first two days we get very specific plans on what we should be doing.

E-Learning Plans

On day 3, we were emailed (and actual mailed) choice plans. There were five different assignments under each subject (Reading, Math, Writing, Social/Science, and Specials).  Then, each day, our kids were to choose one thing to do for each subject, so they were doing 5 things per day.  That has been nice to give choices, but the options were much less specific than the plans for days 1 & 2.

Today we got an email from the district saying that the teachers are in video meetings all day long today, working to get something together so that our kids can remain engaged throughout this quarantine.  Engaged is the key word here.  They were very pointed in reassuring us parents that this is not to stress us out.  These lesson plans are sent out to keep our kids engaged in learning, and they don’t actually count for grades.  Not quite sure how that will affect their education/grade levels later, but I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

When I first started writing this blog, it was day 1, and I was ready to throw out a bunch of pros and cons, but then I decided to wait and give it a week.  Allow myself, and my kiddos, to work out the kinks of working and learning from home.  So after being in it for a week, here’s what I’m seeing as the ups and the downs of e-learning.

 

E-Learning allows for you to go at your own pace.

Being at home, we are free from the time constraints at school.  We can break for snack, lunch, or the bathroom whenever we want.  We don’t have to hurry through a lesson to make it to another subject.  My third grader got to work ASAP, and just buzzed right through his work, and was done in about 3.5 hours.

The “choose-your-own-adventure” lesson plans that were sent give my 3rd grader a sense of control over his day.  He knows he has to do everything, but he can choose what to do and the order to do it in.  He liked that.  I chose things for my kindergartener to do based upon difficulty level and his cooperation level. I did allow him to choose what to do first between 2 choices I picked out for him.  Kids like choices, they make them feel in control.

On the down side, my kindergartener is a slow poke, a procrastinator, and a silly guy.  He would rather make jokes than finish his tasks.  This has been an issue with him at school as well, but he was improving and starting to get his work done on time in class.  Being at home with a looser schedule, I feel he is more distracted or just not ready to learn because we are home.

After the first day, the routine had been set, and Alexa was even set up with reminders for when we would start e-learning, and when there were scheduled breaks. Once he knew more about how the day would go, he has been better at staying on task, not great, but better.

 

Not everyone is a teacher.

I used to be a teacher.  Long term, I taught pre-k, 4th and 5th grades. And as a sub, I have been in k-8 classrooms. I know how kids learn best, and I have a knowledge of the concepts the lessons are trying to teach.  My background allows me to work with a 3rd grader and a kindergartener simultaneously on different topics.  On day 1 I even had my two year old niece set up “working” on her coloring while my boys worked.  It wasn’t too hard for me.

However, not everyone is a teacher.  There have been parents galore on social media describing their struggles.  They are not used to the multi-tasking that goes along with teaching students of different levels and abilities.  They are not used to the approaches teachers use to best reach their students.  It’s been tough for them.

But their struggle has been met with support.  I have seen so many teacher moms posting about how anyone who is struggling can reach out to them for help and answers.  And I know for a fact that the teachers in my kids’ schools have had regular office hours where they are answering emails and Google chats from parents and students.  I’ve been having an issue with one of the logins for a learning account for my kindergartener.  His teacher and another teacher have been keeping up with responses and fixes to the issue.  I didn’t expect them to be so fast.

Whether parents are experiences with e-learning are good, or not so good, I know for a fact, we are all feeling extra grateful and appreciative of actual teachers right now.

 

The balance of school work and your own work.

My job is this, writing.  Every couple of weeks I put a new blog out, so it’s nothing high stress or demanding of my time.  However, I still struggled a bit this week to get this blog out.  I mentioned before that I started writing this blog on day 1.  I wanted to wait a week to see how it went, but also, my kid was using my computer most of the day.  Then, when he was done, I was about done too, and didn’t feel like sitting down to write.

At our house, my husband is set up upstairs with his monitors.  He was lucky and able to go to his office to get some supplies to help him better work from home.  My 3rd grader has his Chromebook from school that he can work on, and my kindergartener works from my laptop.  We are fortunate to have a computer for everyone.

But not everyone does.  Some homes may have to share one computer, and then how do you balance that out?  I’m not sure, but I guess that goes back to the flexibility of e-learning; you can put it on hold when mom or dad needs to do some time sensitive work.  Our district was really great in reaching out to families in need too.  Our schools are 1:1 technology.  Kids in grades K-2 all have their own Chromebooks that are always left at school, and kids in grades 3+ all have Chromebooks that they can take home every day.  The district sent out an email saying that if a kid needed a Chromebook to use, they could go sign one out from the school to use for the duration of this quarantine.  But I know not every district can do this.

 

The uncertainty of it all.

This whole situation is new for us.  As parents, we don’t know what to tell our kids when they ask when they can go back to school.  We don’t know, it will be a few weeks at least.  We also don’t know what the ongoing lesson plans will look like.  No one knows what to expect, and that is a little unsettling and stressful for all of us.

But one thing that is reassuring is the sense of community.  Local schools and restaurants are offering free meals for kids in need.  I’ve seen teachers of after school activities (including ballet, karate, and painting) are teaching classes through videos so kids can still be active at home.  And people are being kind, offering to shop for the elderly and needy.  And as mentioned before, teacher moms offering to help other parents however they can.  In  a time of uncertainty, this sense of community is comforting.  We shall see how it all plays out.