In these extraordinary circumstances many parents and students have found themselves making a quick transition from face to face to distance or online learning.
We (virtually) travelled across the states and spoke with Elle Fehring, Secondary School Coordinator from the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia about how to navigate online learning and the challenges it presents.
“Kids are resilient and flexible but may struggle to adapt to a sudden shift to independent learning.” As Elle explains, “it’s a mindset change.”
Her advice is to set small goals, be in communication with your school and teachers and use the resources available to you.
Your role as a parent or caregiver
Elle says the first thing to remember is that you’re not required to home school your child; they’re distance learning, “your role is to encourage and support; try not to teach.”
“You don’t have to put on a professional mindset of being the teacher as well as the parent.” She says trying to be both while we’re also under pressure and trying to work from home is an impossible task that will lead to unnecessary stress for you and your child.
“Instead, encourage them to stay in communication with their teachers, they shouldn’t feel as though asking for help in this environment means that they’re not adapting or coping as well as they should.”
Adjusting to a new normal
“Set up your own space to separate study and recreation areas in the home,” says Elle. She acknowledges this might be hard given space limitations but splitting space for work and play will help separate time to focus and time to unwind.
Be familiar with their tools and resources
“As teachers, we have a wide range of websites, platforms and apps that we use to connect and teach online.” Elle says the best way you can help as a parent or caregiver is to familiarise yourself with the tools your school is using and to help your child do the same.
For example, if they’re struggling with spelling and grammar, order them a physical dictionary or show them how to use an online one instead of just providing the answers.
Set little milestones
“Setting small goals or milestones through the day is a more effective strategy than just trying to get the work done,” advises Elle. For example, try and solve five math’s problems or work for 10 minutes then have a break.
“It’s quite organic for students to work this way and they naturally do so in the classroom. They might stop for a chat or the teacher will jump in with the next instruction.”
Elle says breaking down tasks into small goals is a great way to see progress and see what is being achieved in a set period of time. “Sometimes less is more, otherwise you can put too much pressure on your child. If all they get done is five sentences of a paragraph, then you can build from there and they will feel a sense of achievement.”
It’s ok to not have the answers
Let them know it’s ok to not know all the answers. If you’re struggling, acknowledge this with your child; they may be feeling the same and not know how to express their concerns.
“Teachers and support staff will most likely still be working normal hours so encourage your child to reach out or do so yourself.”
What about those in year 12?
Elle says, “it’s a hard year anyway but not physically being in the classroom isn’t an excuse to take your foot off the pedal.”
That being said she explains that “the Australian Government has said that no student will be disadvantaged due to the COVID-19 outbreak. That doesn’t mean students aren’t still expected to come to the party.”
“Your child will still need to provide evidence of learning to show they’ve done as much as they can under the current circumstances. My advice is to check with your school what is required to complete their HSC or equivalent qualification for your state.”
As a parent or caregiver, encourage your child to know what they need to achieve and work with their teachers to stay on track as much as possible. Elle advises that “knowing where your child is up to and what is expected of them for the rest of 2020 will ensure no surprises when they return to the classroom and give them the best chance of success.”
“It’s not expected that everyone will perform to the best of their ability when things have changed as quickly as they did,” explains Elle. “You may need to readjust goals with your child and provide reassurance that results may not necessarily be a reflection of their true abilities but a reflection of what’s happening in circumstances beyond their control and that they should still be proud of their efforts.”
Returning to school
“Kids have gaps in their learning and they naturally fill them in, they will be fine after this,” she reassures. “Teachers know what’s ahead of them and parents can have confidence in the school system to ameliorate the gaps that may have occurred during this time or if students have struggled to stay motivated at home.”
Prioritise the wellbeing of you and your child
When it comes to the wellbeing of your family, Elle says to “choose your battles, don’t battle your children. The wellbeing of children, parents and their families is paramount for me as a teacher.”
“Health is the most important thing; kids are resilient and learning will happen irrespective of classroom or distance.”
She explains, “learning is continuous, even after school learning will continue. It’s not worth damaging your relationship with your child to push them through online learning now. If it’s not happening, it’s not happening – don’t feel guilty about it.”
If you’re struggling with the workload from home, Elle’s advice is to talk to the school. Let them know what’s going on as they will be your best resource. “Even just having a different person to talk to can be beneficial.”
As parents we need to also look after our own wellbeing, you won’t be able to fool your child; “you’re also role model, show them that it’s ok to not be ok and how to manage your concerns.”
Naturally try and maintain as much of a normal routine as possible, this includes going to bed and waking up at a regular time and maintaining a healthy diet.
When it’s time to log off for the day, encourage your child to go outside, move their bodies and spend some time away from screens. “This could a great opportunity for you to connect with your child away from the stressors or work and study by going for a walk or doing something you both enjoy.”
Remember you’re not alone
Elle’s parting advice is to remember the current situation is only temporary, “if you or your child are feeling overwhelmed, reach out to the school and teachers for assistance.”
It might be stressful now but try and enjoy the extra time you have with your kids at home, they’ll be back in the classroom before you know it.