Home COVID-19 The Art of Homeschooling: Teachers Share Their Top Tips

The Art of Homeschooling: Teachers Share Their Top Tips

by Danielle Lynch
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Due to the unforeseen circumstances of COVID-19, it feels like the world has been turned upside down. On that note, it is important to recognize how everyone is doing their part, holding down the fort, and coming together {while staying apart, of course} in the midst of this tragedy. 

Teachers are no strangers to changing plans quickly, making accommodations, and doing their best to help others. That’s why we wanted to highlight the work being done behind the scenes by schools to help children and parents maintain some normalcy during the craziness of it all. Read on to learn more about how schools and teachers are dealing with remote learning + discover some of their useful tips to make at-home learning run as smoothly as possible.

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Planning for Remote Learning

Last week, schools were faced with the dreaded reality that they must close their doors in order to practice social distancing and help flatten the curve. The disheartening reality of homeschooling has taken its toll on teachers, students, administrators, and parents alike. Leslie Baez, a Jersey City resident + special education teacher in Hoboken shared that, “Teachers had a ‘workday’ on Monday to meet and start planning what our lessons would look like. We arranged office hours, set up Google Classroom {students were already using this platform} and had to plan out for remote teaching for potentially more than two weeks.” 

The challenge of changing the whole trajectory of education and the typical school day was stressful but well handled by districts who were forced to go to such measures. Something like this has never been done in the education world, but schools are going the extra mile to maintain as much normalcy and consistency for their students and families during these tough times. 

Working to Create a New Normal

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As we move into this new normal, most people have had to make significant adjustments to their normal routines. We spoke with a few local teachers and administrators who shared what they have been doing to help make remote learning work for all students and families. 

Elementary school assistant principal Katherine Stearns shared her perspective as a school administrator.

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I’m actually an elementary assistant principal, so I’m facilitating the teacher’s work. Our teachers are calling, FaceTiming, and ‘Zoom-ing’ each kid for 20-30 minutes a day to work on everything that they’re doing at home,” she shared. “They’re also doing read alouds on Instagram Live and other amazing things — my teachers are incredible. For the kids, we’re doing whatever it takes. Kids are getting calls from their regular teacher, their art/music/gym/chess/science teachers, and my leadership team. We’ll do whatever we can do through the phone to help make it work!” 

Second-grade teacher, Tiffany Kane has been working hard to balance it all out, even setting up a makeshift classroom in her home. “It’s been an interesting week figuring out Zoom and managing students digitally. My dining room is command central. I started having open hours on Zoom where parents and students could pop-in for questions or to say hi. I’m also holding a regular class session for all of my students on Zoom a few times a week. We’re using Google Classroom for all of our assignments.” Essentially, teachers are working super hard to facilitate remote learning in the most effective way possible.

See More: 7 Clever Ways to Be Your Most Creative at Home

Challenges Teachers Are Facing

Of course, with this new normal, everyone has been feeling the wrath of its uncharted territory.  Teachers, support staff, and administrators are doing something completely new for the very first time, so glitches and issues are bound to arise. 

For the most part, challenges seem to be rooted in technology and maintaining schedules, especially for children with special needs. Shayna Stemmer, a reading specialist, explains that it has been difficult to manage technology during this time.

Families that have multiple children are trying to manage having less available devices than they have kids. Some families have two parents working from home and three or four kids. We are trying to create assignments that don’t all need devices,” she shared.  Some schools have the available technology to provide to children, but not every district has those resources. 

From a special education and related services point of view {i.e occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, etc.}, their concerns also include their ability to deliver these necessary services to students who need them. Teachers of students with special needs have been doing their best to provide modifications and support to children with IEPs {Individualized Education Plans}. The aforementioned Leslie Baez has been working to give her students what they need from a distance. “Some of the challenges include keeping students involved who struggle with routine and day-to-day at home,” and she has been doing all that she can to “make them feel like part of our community when they have so much additional responsibility at home.” The lack of structure can be debilitating to some students, creating a challenge for both students and parents, guardians, and caregivers.

 The mental and emotional challenges of remote learning can be taxing on everyone. Teachers and administrators who have grown close to their students and colleagues are managing the disheartening reality of separation. 

The Bright Side

It goes without saying that this new form of teaching has brought students and teachers out of the classroom and {virtually} into each other’s homes. Teachers and students get to eat breakfast and lunch together, see each other’s pets, siblings, and home, which most kids can’t wait to share. “Students love seeing teachers ‘at home.’ We’re constantly asking how they are, sharing fun information, and just being there for them. We’ve come together as a community much stronger than we were before. Parents are also appreciating the work that we do normally and even more now since they can see how much work goes into preparing a meaningful lesson for these students, ” Leslie explained.

School occupational therapist, Adela Merida, is also so proud of the way her district has handled the delivery of special services. “My district is so receptive to special services. They go above and beyond taking our ideas and resources and actually applying them where they see fit. [I] hope to get back to the schools physically soon so that all these students can continue receiving [the] services they are entitled to.”

These times are most certainly difficult for everyone and navigating this new normal will be something we all have to get through together. Undeniably, we are all more resilient than we think and things will bounce back to normal eventually.

Read More: If You’re Working From Home, Here Are Some Great Tools to Use

Tips for Parents Teaching at Home

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With the kids at home for the foreseeable future, it’s safe to say that parents have and will continue to take on a more teacher-like role. Here are some tips to make the at-home learning run as smoothly as possible.

Make a Schedule and Stick to It

Having a routine will maintain some level of normalcy. Routines are good for everyone and will help your child adjust when schools reopen.

Stay Connected 

During a time when we are supposed to be social distancing, it’s easy for kids and adults to feel alone. Zoom and Google Hangouts both offer video chatting options and are great ways for kids to stay in touch with each other. 

Be Active 

Exercise is good for physical and mental health. Kids need to run around and exercise. It will help them focus better, too!

Open Up

Sadness, anxiety, and stress are all normal feelings during this time. Talk to your kids and share some calming techniques that work for you — yoga, deep breathing, reading a book, laughing, etc. 

Designate a Workspace 

It is so important for kids to feel like they have a space to work, just like they do at school. Allow them to set it up as they like and even hang up artwork or things they are proud of. 

Shift Gears When the Day is Done

Working from home can erase the lines of work and play. Decide on a cleanup time where your “students” can put away their belongings and shift back into their home life. 

Model Social Distancing

Kids are always watching, learning, and imitating the adults around them. Set a good example. Lead with integrity. Show them the importance of social distancing at this time.

While these times are certainly a challenge, we know they will not last forever. The kids will be back on the school playground soon enough!

What are some of your at-home learning tips? Share with us in the comments!


Did you know: We started a podcast about all things news and lifestyle in Hoboken + Jersey City! Listen to the latest episode of Tea on the Hudson here and subscribe.

We release new episodes every Tuesday!

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