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Educate Up to Date

Parents as Teachers: #WFH Survival

This post is dedicated to all of the educators who continue to be there for their families — at home and at school.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

The Window

It’s 6:40am when the alarm goes off. Reaching for the phone, I check my morning emails and get my bearings by looking at the calendar. Within a few minutes the text comes in, “Shower,” and I know that means my sister is awake and will be ready for our morning walk soon (300 miles apart). There’s only a small window of time when this walk is possible. After this window closes, the day must begin, and for my sister that means balancing her life as a Special Education service provider and being “Mom” to her two sons under age 10.

Image from Canva

Many teachers find themselves in the same situation these days and recently I had the privilege of Zooming with five of them on a Friday afternoon. We began our meeting with a toast to hard work and during our hour together we covered the challenges and successes of working from home (WFH). Teaching and being a parent has always been tough, but in the current state of WFH, it’s reached another level. One of the teachers honestly reflected on how difficult it was to be “great” at both roles — how often times being a great mom to her children at home makes it near impossible to be a great teacher to her students remotely, and vice versa. Others validated this experience, adding that the constant switching between roles was exhausting and stressful.

The Challenges

But what makes this feel so different? Why isn’t WFH easier than packing up three backpacks, dealing with morning traffic, and spending time with your work family from 7:30am–4pm every day? We can all feel the difference, but naming the stressors is an essential starting point to begin working towards solutions. One of the biggest challenges explored during my conversation with this group of teachers is echoed in Elizabeth Scott’s article, “How to Handle the Stress of Working From Home”. As a wellness coach, she discusses how difficult it can be to set boundaries between “productivity and leisure time”.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

When teachers commute to and from the school building, there is a natural start and stop time, when you “pause” parenting your own children and become a teacher to your other 25. WFH does not allow for this distinction, so teachers are answering parent emails, grading assignments, and putting out fires on Google Classroom from 6am-12am. They find themselves lesson-planning into the wee hours of the morning, just to start all over again the next day. This lack of boundaries can be extremely depleting, but teachers have trouble stepping back because they want to support students and their guardians as much as possible.

Working Towards Solutions

It’s important to recognize the fact that this particular structure of WFH is extremely challenging for our teachers, especially those who also play the role of parent. Speaking with this group of teachers got me thinking.

What can be done to make teaching and parenting from home more manageable?

Here are 6 tips from the field to survive WFH as a parent and teacher:

Supporting Everyone

  1. Hold “office hours” to answer guardian/student emails and phone calls/texts. Try and do this twice a day in the AM and PM, to accommodate other work schedules (and your own!). Be transparent with the start and stop times and stick to them for your own well-being.
  2. Tired of answering the same question a thousand times via email? Post a “FAQ” doc at the top of your Google Classroom page to collect guardian/student questions throughout the course of the week. Not only will the document provide one space for questions instead of multiple emails, but it will also give students a chance to support their peers — and feel good about it, too!

Not Reinventing the Wheel

  1. We want students to be actively engaged during live instruction, but we don’t always have the time to recreate digital versions of lesson materials. No reason to throw in the towel! Don’t discredit the notebook as a workspace for students, especially during live instruction. A simple graphic organizer like this one works well to keep students involved throughout the lesson.
  2. Our students feel the lack of structure WFH just as much as we do. So this next tip is important for multiple reasons. Try and follow the same structure during all of your lessons, whether taught “live” via Zoom/Google Meet, or recorded as a screencast for later viewing. The Make a Copy function on your Google Drive files makes this easy to do.
T Chart Graphic Organizer to be drawn in notebook

Maintaining Work-Life Balance

  1. As much as we’d like to be teaching in the same physical space as our students, conferencing tools like Zoom/Google Meet (check here for updates) are a decent stand-in. Teaching a skill/concept live as often as possible is not only closer to our “normal”, it’s actually preferred by many students and allows us to address misconceptions at the point of instruction. (This could also mean less “I don’t get it” comments on those Google Classroom assignments).
  2. This tip is just as valid during in-school instruction as it is during virtual. When creating and assigning work to your students, abide by the quality over quantity rule. There is no need to assign 25 questions as follow-up to direct instruction; this redundancy may have a negative effect on their motivation to complete the work. Instead, consider allowing the students to choose X out of the 25, or handpick the questions you think will provide the best learning experience — a mix of simple practice and deeper thinking questions.




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I am an Instructional Coach and Client Success Manager at Educate LLC. I believe in the power of communities to fight for equity and access for all.

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