September 2020 At-A-Glance – Back To School; Our COVID Classroom. September and back to school is a fresh start; My New Year. I have always looked forward to the first day of school. The new outfit, new classes, new teachers, new students; the excitement was real. Last September this excitement was shared by my daughters as they entered Grade 1 and Senior Kindergarten. New shoes, big smiles and friends that hadn’t been seen since June. Returning to school in September 2020, amid the Coronavirus (COVID) Global Pandemic, has taken things to another level. The first day of school has NEVER before looked like this!
Back To School in September?
The lead up to back to school this September was panic for parents, chaos for the school boards and not one plan presented seem to deliver the options that worked inclusively for all. Parents had to choose between sending the children to school or keeping them home to learn online.
When I was laid off in March, I spent the summer building beholdher.life as a way to keep myself busy and my mind focused. In September, I secured two contacts that allowed me to work from home. I am so fortunate that I was able to manage the flexibility and adapt to the situation and still earn money while working from home. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to work from home. Not everyone is able to quit their job, or rearrange their hours. Not everyone has access to the flexibility to adapt and stay home, not all jobs are suitable to do at home.
Some have kept their kids home, other choose to send their children to school, and some are changing their minds about what to do at this very moment. My family chose to keep the girls home and attend the online program offered by our school board.
I began writing this because I needed to take a moment to reflect upon this unprecedented experience. I am trying to hold onto it all – teacher’s aid, wife, mother, blogger, small business supporter, social media manager, cook, housekeeper, caretaker (you get the idea)…and I am trying to do it with grace and while maintaining my sanity.
COVID Lessons Learned
As a mum, the extended March Break to summer transition is one big blur. In that time I built a webpage and started writing blogs, I home schooled my girls until the end of June, and we survived the summer and the few days of vacation we were able to manage.
The biggest takeaway from the last 7 months, living in the time of COVID, is that structure in my life is an absolute necessity. That without it I struggle to create it. I spoke about this with my therapist and was reminded that our entire lives have been built around external structures. Structure has always told me where to be and when, all I have ever had to do is show up. But when that structure was taken away, in the months following March, it became apparent that my well-being and mental health hinged upon that structure and routine. As September neared and as the decisions and protocols were laid out I became excited and hopeful because I knew that external structure was on its way.
Our COVID Classroom
In preparation for this new way of learning I needed to transform the toy room into a classroom, our COVID Classroom. This space is still a work in progress; as we reorganize one room we transform multiple rooms to accommodate the shift. The transformation allows for a divided area with two work spaces big enough to accommodate a body break area, large enough to accommodate a yoga mat. With laptops and headphones, kids sized office chairs and my girls’ keen ability to adapt, I now have two individual work spaces suitable for my Grade 1 & Grade 2 French Immersion students.
The Good, The Bad and The Benefits of Our COVID Classroom Experience
Our experience with transitioning to a remote model of learning has been a much smoother journey than I was expecting but, that does not mean there hasn’t been frustration. There is always a learning curve when adapting to something new, a few hurdles to jump. This past year has absolutely proven that to me. I always try to enter a new situation with a calm energy and rational thoughts. I try to manage the outcome favorably, never expecting perfection and recognizing that my reaction to change is crucial to the experience. So, I attempt to find the positive, to find the way in which you will use the experience to benefit the outcome.
I am truly amazed at what our school board what able to accomplish over the span of a few weeks. Around 11.5% of students in our school board elected to stay home, approximately 4,000 students. As a result a new school was added to our school board, a remote education model that includes a principal, vice principals, office administrator, and teachers. A complete school with virtual classrooms and virtual group learning.
The first weeks of Online School was a success in my books. We survived! The technical glitches were expected and what was not a easily remedied was eventually solved. The tears and emotions were heightened but manageable, the substitutes made for recesses and a new learning model surprisingly accepted without complaint. There was so much learning and change in the first weeks and my girls and the teachers did brilliantly!
I must say this, and I say it very LOUDLY and PROUDLY, that the teachers and administration have done an absolutely amazing job! The patience of a teacher is a beautiful thing. It must be partly DNA and partly magic. Whatever it is, these individuals are true professionals, rising to the challenge and finding solutions to grow forward and evolve. They are demonstrating the resilience our children need and are responding to.
The Teachers rotate in and out of the classrooms and students enjoy a full, albeit modified, curriculum. Creativity runs ramped as lesson are adapted to be taught online, and restrictions like physical education find solutions in technology and yoga and body break videos have been incorporated into the day. Outdoor play is encouraged on breaks and after school and sometimes homework is simply a walk in nature to collect fallen leaves and pine cones for the next day’s assignment.
Overcoming things like new technology, understanding the individual requirements for teachers, accommodating new schedules and the general feeling of irritation that goes along with adapting to something new is present but was also expected and accepted as part of the program.
Two things top the list of frustration since beginning this COVID Classroom journey:
The first, is my ongoing battle with my lack of technological know-how; a mini-war I rage with myself every single time I encounter a technological mishap. I know the basics, can troubleshoot the basics, but my knowledge is exhausted fairly quickly. That, coupled with learning all this new-to-me technology, applications, drives, etc. while attempting to keep up with all the emails, assignments, submissions, etc. It is here that I began to recognize that my organization skills could use a buff and polish and quite possibly, some deep love. I am actively participating in The Bad , and that is what drives me nuts about this part of the process. I NEED to become a part of the solution.
My second challenge is working from home, mere steps away from the COVID Classroom. The interruptions while the girls’ are on break; which are frequent and often taken separately, wear my patience. One of their 10 minute breaks is 20 minutes for me. This happens 2-3 times a day. Then add a 40 minute lunch break on top of that. That 5 hours of school time translates to almost 2 hours of lost work time for me. While some days are better than others, I recognize that being able to adapt to what the situation and what my children require is paramount – no matter the day.
The MOST important thing we, as a family, need to remember is that we are all trying to learn this together. It is new for us all. Being mindful really helps the situation. There are moments that I need to check myself; bring myself to the core of importance in the situation. I must understand, ‘my child is not interrupting me, my child requires assistance and I am the adult, the one who can assist when the teacher requires assistant.’ I also understand that the present moment is the most important moment. When I actively work to frame life in this way I understand the importance of showing up. I understand that I have the power to influence the opportunity to learn and for that reason I do not wish to taint it with negativity.
In the end, all the work gets done and we finish they day, together as a family, cuddled up on the couch. Simple and lovely.
The benefits of being the fly on the wall in their COVID classroom is that I get to overhear who they are, who they become in class. I get to hear their responses to unknown questions. I get to hear them speak up when talking with their classmates and teachers. I get to hear them participating and laughing and telling great stories that, I hope, compliment the lesson or discussion. I recognize how their voices have become braver over the weeks and can hear their personalities vibrating through their voices. I am amazed at their resilience, at their flexibility and acceptance to the situation. I am amazed at how they take an unknown situation and shape it into a new normal; their new normal.
There are added benefits that I am quite enjoying as well. Benefits that I feel are encouraging family bonding and open conversations. There are questions never before asked being asked, observations made about what is happening in the world. The are more hugs and cuddles and whispered ‘I love you’s.’ There is more mummy and daughter time as a result, and that is something that has been slipping away since the girls started school.
I am so happy that introducing a brand new way to do school has been so well received. When we chat about their school experience they tell me about the new friends they are making and the stories that those friends have shared, I know that they are finding happiness and making connections. They tell me about what they talk about in class or they share with me what a classmate brought to show and tell. It warms my heart and puts my mind at ease that we made the right decision for our family.
I feel very fortunate that I was able to make the decisions I did for my family. This was not an easy decision to make and my heart goes out to those parents with children in schools and to those school staff that are working within the school’s walls. I am concerned for their health; for all the extra stress and strain and for all the worry and and fear I can only imagine they are burdened with, let alone dealing with the virus itself.
My experience with September, overall, was decent. I see people cooperating, I see systems building and I can see our immediate future a bit more realistically now. I know what to expect and I know what is expected. I have a much better idea about what I have to do to make this transition into a new routine easier on everyone.
My slice of humble pie was delivered in the moment I realized and acknowledged that my lack of organization skills was quickly becoming a problem; I recognized I could use some help and I will reach out for some.
As with most life lessons, I have been reminded that I too must adapt in order to evolve, survive and succeed. I need to continue to recognize my faults in order to pursue healthier and more sustainable measures of adaptation. I do this for me and I do this for them; for my girls. These are the standards I set and the examples I leave as legacy. All of this so that they can feel confident within themselves and their abilities, strong willed enough to triumph through challenges, graceful enough to lift others up, to support others and the community that surrounds. Simply because I have set that example and led the way.
We are all doing our best, for our families, our situations and our communities. We need to spread love and support during these times. We need to continue moving forward with dignity and equality. We need to continue to do our best and live through these times to tell the stories about what it was like to live through time of COVID-19: The Great Global Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020.
I am excited to document our journey with this Remote Online School and share our experiences with you.
Thank you for reading. Really, it means so much. I would love to hear what motherhood is for you. Please feel free to drop a comment below and share, share, share.