I guess that’s the thought going through a lot of parents’ minds right now, whether they’re teachers or not.
My parents were both teachers and I can tell you right now that it wasn’t always an easy combination. I always really wanted to be their child, rather than their student.
Perhaps that’s the most important thing to remember right now: you need to be a parent first.
You’re not a teacher from your child’s school, you’re not in a classroom and we’re not in normal circumstances. We need to make sure that we’re okay first, and that means us as adults as well as the children we find in front of us each day – whether they’re our own or those of key workers.
With that in mind, here are a few of my thoughts:
Be their parent, don’t try to be their teacher.
Teachers are in loco parentis but we don’t have the same role as a parent. We’re there to ensure your child is happy, healthy and safe, sure! Our first priority after that, though, is to ensure that they’re well educated.
The first priority of a parent is to love their child.
That still absolutely has to be your prime concern. That will perhaps mean that learning is slower, less direct and you have more of the anxiety, temper tantrums and shows of emotion that come with your child feeling totally safe and protected in your company.
Please don’t expect your home to be a school classroom! Our children need love and reassurance now more than ever.
Be clear about expectations and timings.
Have a timetable for the day, even if you decide to vary it or even ditch it.
Teaching only works when students know exactly what’s expected of them so please communicate well with your children:
“We’re going to spend ten minutes reading this and then we’ll talk about it for about five minutes. After that, I’d like you to summarise it for me quietly, which’ll take about ten minutes. Then we’ll take a break and phone Grannie. I can’t wait to talk to her!”
Give reminders of the time and the standard of the work you would like your child to achieve:
“Ok, we’ve done our reading and our chatting so now it’s ten minutes of writing for you. I think that you should be able to fill about half a page in that time if you’re trying hard. We can show Grannie what you’ve been up to when we call.”
If it doesn’t work out, don’t worry. These are unprecedented and unusual times. Try again later or the next day. It might be that cuddles on the sofa or cooking a meal together are better ways to spend these early days.
On the other hand, maybe it’ll go swimmingly!
Have regular breaks (our lessons are only fifty minutes)!
With your timetable, plan in breaks that suit you and your children. Most teachers have lessons that are about 45 minutes or an hour long. In between we might grab a drink, pop to the loo or just clear our heads for a minute before we plough on with another lesson, even if it’s just a minute or two.
It might be that your children are up early and a morning of school suits you with a couple of snack breaks. It may be that two hours in the morning, with a break in between, and an hour or two in the afternoon, with a family walk in the middle, are what your children need.
You know them and their timings best – think about how school and breaks will fit into it, especially if you have children of different ages.
Everyone loves a story.
I’ve been teaching now for over fifteen years and reading novels always calms a class down. Every class I’ve ever taught has loved the term we’ve spent reading a novel together.
Find some stories your children will love and read them aloud together.
For older children, try and get them to read characters whilst you narrate so that they are learning to skim and scan at the same time.
You’ll get five minutes peace if you can persuade an older child to read to the younger ones too. Then all you need do is ask them some basic questions about what was happening and what they think might happen next!
Questions about novels in the classroom lie in these areas:
A) Predict: what do you think will happen next? Why?
B) Clarify: was there anything you didn’t understand?
C) Question: what questions did it make you ask?
D) Summarise: how could you best summarise what we read today?
Use online resources.
There are LOADs of online resources at the moment and your school has probably pointed you in their direction. Whilst screen time should be limited, at the moment please don’t worry about it too much.
These are great ways to learn!
If your school hasn’t given you specific direction, a quick Google search will definitely point you in the right direction. Lots of these are game related so should give you some time to breath in the day, or to spend time with one child whilst the other does something else if they’re different ages or have different interests.
Don’t work all day.
When you know enough is enough, stop.
This is a time where we need to be kind to ourselves and each other before we prioritise anything else.
Stop when they need to.
Or stop when you need to, whichever comes first.
Cut yourself some slack!
If you’re emotional and it’s not happening for you today, don’t.
Whatever you and your family need to be happy and healthy in this situation is just as important as their education.
No one has exams this academic year so we can all afford the time to put our mental health first.
Don’t feel guilty about it and don’t compare yourself or your children to others. You know what you and your children need most – go with that!
Start tomorrow afresh.
Whatever happens today, tomorrow is a new day.
No two days in my career have been alike. I recently had an Ofsted visit and I was observed teaching a lesson I was genuinely really, really pleased with. The next day, my last lesson was a disaster. I can’t stress that enough. I cried because my own lesson was so bad.
Teaching is up and down at the best of times!
All the best with caring for your children, and educating them as best you can, during these unprecedented times. Use the vast amount of advice and guidance available if you want it! Comment here on the blog or ask teachers on Twitter or Facebook, we’re all only too keen to help…
Stay safe, stay in your homes and take care.