When President Cyril Ramaphosa placed South Africa under a hard lockdown on 23 March, the face-to-face education sector was amongst the hardest hit. Schools, parents, educators, and pupils suddenly found themselves having to adapt to new ways of doing things on the fly.
Initially there was enthusiasm, with parents throwing themselves into their new role as co-educators and educators realising that there was actual value to the technological tools they’d resisted for so long. But after two months, fault lines are starting to appear. Parents and educators are very stressed.
Fortunately, there are a host of solutions available to ensure we all adapt to the new way of educating and make life less stressful for everyone concerned.
Parents and educators lean on each other
Let’s be honest, by the time they get to being parents, most people have forgotten what they’ve learned at school (or the curriculum’s changed so much that they don’t recognise it). As a result, they can find themselves frustrated at their inability to help their kids with their assignments.
At the same time, however, they shouldn’t overwhelm themselves. Wherever possible, parents should align themselves with their children’s educators. If they’re teaching math, for example, parents should speak to educators and find out how they approach lessons and what they’re trying to achieve. They should make sure not to veer from properly curated content which will help ensure that they provide the right information to their children. Educators should also regularly speak to parents for insights into how learners are coping with the lessons and material.
Now, more than ever, parents and educators need to be partners in their children’s education. It shouldn’t fall on any one party to make it happen.
While lockdown is stressful and not everyone can manage it, there are benefits to both parents and educators trying out online courses themselves.
“An online short course, through a well known university and online education provider, can give them a sense of what well-structured online learning looks like,” says Alison Fergus, COO of online education provider MasterStart. “Parents get to role model learning and educators can get inspiration for how to structure online learning activities and assessments. As an added bonus, everyone comes out with additional skills and knowledge both professionally and personally .”
Blogs and communities
It’s important to remember that no one’s ever had to do remote education at this scale and under these conditions. As such, the wisdom of the crowd becomes more important than ever.
If you’re a parent, reach out to other parents, and search for remote learning blogs, advises Fergus. And if you’re an educator, reach out to other educators. And don’t just stick to the ones you know. Search for forums and blogs written by people in the same situation or who’ve executed remote learning successfully. While everyone’s contexts might be slightly different, chances are someone will be able to help you out. And even if they can’t, you’ll probably feel better knowing that you’re not the only one battling with a particular problem.
As a rule, default to the experts. They’re making a living out of doing it – which means they need to ensure they get it right, unlike the other parents in your school Whatsapp group, for example.
Online classroom management plans
If you’re an educator, chances are you have a plan to manage your real-life classroom. There’s no reason you shouldn’t have one for your online classroom too. A simple search will reveal plenty of templates. Once you’ve got a plan, share it with the parents in your class. This will give them a much better idea of what’s expected of their children.
Remember, technology is not the most important part of remote learning, maintaining a connection with your learners is. A good classroom management plan can help you do this.
Arrange for structure
We’re all used to a lot more structure in our days than the current situation allows for, but educators and learners are especially impacted. With the use of online calendar and task-tracking apps, you can bring some of that structure back and reduce stress all-round.
At the same time, don’t be too rigid with the structure. Remember kids need more breaks than adults do. Make time for play or exercise every day, and come back to the content later – especially if they get stuck and frustrated.
Remote learning is going to be with us for a long time to come. But as a norm, we’re still in the very early phases. There will be growing pains and stress, but parents and educators alike can reassure themselves that it doesn’t have to come at the cost of a quality education.