This is part of a series of posts from nominees for our LifeChanger of the Year educator recognition program. We meet scores of fascinating LifeChangers every year who have interesting perspectives to share about children, education and life.
Let’s say you are learning to juggle and someone gave you both glass and rubber balls. Then they turned off the lights and said that it’s okay to let the rubber ones drop but if you drop a glass ball it will be shattered forever. What if those rubber balls represented all of the things in life we think are important and the glass ones represented the things we know are important?
Would you feel comfortable juggling in the dark? I wouldn’t.
You are probably in the same boat as I am in if you’re reading this. You’re at home trying to balance work, homelife and now you are educating your child on top of everything. It’s as if someone decided you should learn how to juggle, then they started tossing more balls in to the mix. You’re just trying not to drop anything.
This is where you learn what really matters. Which are the glass balls and which are the rubber ones. If a glass ball falls it will shatter. What are your glass balls? Health and family are the two that stand out to me the most and probably for you as well. Why is it that we are struggling?
It is that the lights were turned off and our juggling routine just became a lot more complicated. If nothing else, the coronavirus has hopefully taught us just how fragile everything is and more importantly what really matters.
Educators all over the country sent children home a few weeks ago with the idea that we would see our students again. Now more than ever, we realize that is probably not going to happen and we are all upset. Selfishly, I wish I had one more day with all of my students. Yes, I can teach online and we meet daily, but nothing will ever replace the relationships we have when we are all together. This is important to note because you cannot replace the work we do, the training and experience we have, and you shouldn’t feel like you have to. That isn’t a glass ball and you should let that one drop to the floor. It will bounce back, I promise. I am not saying don’t teach your child, I am stating that if you weren’t your child’s teacher before this pandemic you shouldn’t put that anxiety on yourself now. Here are some helpful tips to hopefully turn on the light and reveal the truth about what you’re trying to juggle.
We know it’s a lot. Many teachers are not only tasked with distant learning but also teaching their own children as they work from home helping their students remotely. We get it. It’s tough and it certainly isn’t ideal.
The first thing you need to do is step back and take a breath. Teachers train and plan year-round for your student and we work with a team in our building and in many cases rely on people outside of our building working together to create the incredible learning experiences your student will have at school.
Identify your team. Identify the resources you have available to you outside of your team.
For example: You, your child’s teacher, and friends on social media would make up the team. Your resources may be software the district has purchased, books you have at home, etc.
You should have some guidance from your child’s teacher, but you may still feel they need more.
Have you tried virtual field trips? Interviews with astronauts? Virtual museum tours? These are just a few of the free solutions that are out there that can enrich your students distant learning but are hands off for you while you take a break. Many of these offerings happen on YouTube or social media platforms like Facebook and are very informative and give you the much needed break so that you can be the best you for your student. I will leave a couple of great resources below and I am sure your student will be captivated by the things that they are doing.
Steve Sherman is from South Africa and he is the founder of Living Maths and he always has incredible guests and math problems in his online learning site. Kids from all over the world join in to interview and listen to astronauts and NASA-led scientists. It’s something you definitely want to check out. My students chat with Steve every month and his math riddles will challenge even the best math students!
Skype in the Classroom
These are on-demand events to watch with your students. From Dr. Jane Goodall to How to Train Your Dragon author and illustrator Cressida Cowell, Skype in the Classroom is honored to bring your children inspiration from amazing luminaries in their fields.
And maybe my favorite …
The Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes.
Facebook Page (Live readings of untold hero stories and virtual museum tours)
Website (where students can learn how to find and research historical figure that haven’t had their stories told)
This website is absolutely incredible. If you have a student in fourth grade or above this is a great place for your student to learn and discover the power of story telling and the amazing stories that haven’t been told. Who knows, maybe they will start their own project. The best part is the center is available to all and anyone can reach out and connect and get tips, leads and suggestions.
You are probably going to get asked questions regularly. One of the important things to remember is that answering questions creates a relationship of Q & A. They ask, you answer. You are training them to come back to you instead of thinking through it and trying to solve or discover for themselves. This is really important, especially if you need your student to be working towards becoming independent. The urge to answer is very real but it also just puts a very short-term solution on the table. Here is a great walkthrough of how you could do this with young school age children.
For older students, the key will be reflections and reflective questions. You won’t be able to sit and read everything your student is reading. Instead having them write or create a visual summary is a great way to push them to reflect on their understanding.
What would this chapter look like if it were a painting?
How could you represent this as a dance?
Why do you think the author included this chapter?
Who do you think had the most important role in this chapter? Who carried the story prior? Who doesn’t seem to have a significant role and what purpose are they serving the story?
These are just a few questions you can push towards your students to give them somethings to chew on. If your child asks you a question and you are unsure or uncomfortable, ask the question back or ask the opposite question.
Child: I don’t understand why the dog died in the story.
Parent: Hmm, why do you think the author let the dog die? Or How would this change the story or characters if the dog were still alive.
Either way you are putting the thinking back on the student and off of you. You have enough on your plate you don’t need to try and carry someone else’s. Let’s get them to carry their own plate.
Worksheets and programs. Worksheets and Programs. Worksheets and Programs. I am already bored just typing that. I can’t imagine how bored students would be if that was their schedule from now until May. Involve your student daily in one activity that is geared towards making memories together. If you are thinking of baking cookies, that is a great opportunity to make two batches a tad different and have your child help you with the measuring and the tasting! Let them compare and contrast and make a review video of the two batches. Find two different recipes and ask questions about why they think they are different how that may change the taste in the end.
Do it together and have fun.
Those will be the memories they remember when they think about comparing and contrasting and measurement. Best of all, there will be cookies at the end! Maybe baking isn’t your thing and you want to do some science experiments, CuriOdyssey is great for easy home experiments with things you already have in your home.
Or maybe you want to start a garden and document the process with photos, sharing how you went from garden to table like we are. Regardless of your family’s interests, there are plenty of ways you can plan memory making activities that involve all sorts of learning and skills that your child will remember for years to come.
You are not in this alone. Take a break when you need it. Identify your team. Ask for help.
Utilize the resources you have. Don’t feel like you have to answer every question. Sometimes the best answer is another question. Last but not least, make memories.
We know learning happens when it’s anchored to experiences, and worksheets and programs won’t create those moments. Try to find some time each week to make the learning memorable and share it on social media so others can do it to. Hopefully, you can take inventory of what things can bounce back later and what can’t. Your health and your family are the most important things you are juggling so be careful adding to your load.
Eric Crouch is a 2019-2020 LifeChanger of the Year finalist. Learn more about Eric on his LifeChanger of the Year profile.