As a father of three, I have mixed feelings about a possible return to school. My children, aged four, seven, and 11, all attend the same primary school and are currently doing online learning via Zoom. But it is my 11-year-old who feels it the most, as she is nervous about performing badly in her 11+ exam as a result of being ill-prepared.
Make no mistake, her teacher is doing a tremendous job and she is always available to answer questions or even for one-on-one time with students and parents alike. The other two children have their challenges, too, but they are not yet at that age where external factors bother them so much.
My wife works in retail, which means that she was among those who returned to work last week. Fortunately, my job is pretty flexible and I will be working remotely until further notice. Things were a lot easier when my wife was at home and we could share the responsibilities of home school supervision and daytime chores such as preparing lunch and so on, but I am grateful that we will once again be functioning on two incomes. And not to mention, she does a phenomenal job of looking over the children’s schoolwork when she gets home (after sanitising thoroughly).
I can empathise with the apprehension of teachers. This is not what they trained for. A few weeks of on and off training in online teaching does not make up for the years that they have spent training for the traditional classroom. But I respect that they are doing the best they can given the circumstances.
Teachers are by no means babysitters, but it is fair to take note of the fact that in a traditional classroom setting, teachers spend more time with our children than we do. Children are in school from approximately 8:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. Now, it is completely different. While we were able to focus exclusively on our own work while our children were at school, we now have to find time to split ourselves and wear the additional hat of ‘teacher’. This IS a significant adjustment for most, if not all parents. Plus, not all parents, unfortunately, have an understanding of some of the work their children do and now have to spend time researching and educating themselves so that they can better explain certain concepts to their children.
So when I hear about teachers or even other parents and bystanders insinuating that parents expect teachers to be babysitters, I get angry. I certainly do not expect this, and I am sure that other reasonable parents do not feel this way. All we are trying to say is, this is a huge adjustment and maybe, just maybe, some teachers who are carrying on with teaching from the curriculum as if everything is normal, should give parents a little more wiggle room and work with us. Maybe be a little more lenient with deadlines and things like craft where the parents actually have to go out and source things.
Right now, parents want their children back out to school. I am sure, too, that teachers want to be back in the school environment safely. When will this happen? Who knows? There are still a lot of questions that only health officials can answer. Let us hope that we get those answers soon. Our children do not deserve to be disadvantaged in any way.
This article appears in the March 22 edition of COVID Weekly. Read the full publication here.