Prince Rupert parents are experiencing a myriad of emotions and experiences during COVID-19, with children at home 24-hours-a-day, doing everything from eating, playing, bickering and sleeping, to the new reality of distance learning.
Students are having to learn new coping mechanisms and strategies for studying and work completion out of the classroom environment. Just as much, parents are handling the societal distancing and living room learning in various ways. They too are being schooled in new thought processes and daily schedules during the pandemic times, but ultimately the accountability is with the parents, one Prince Rupert mother said.
“It’s basically just trying to structure my day so that I can get everything done, so that when it does come time to do schoolwork I can actually focus on that,” Jessica Browne, parent and president of the Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) said.
Browne is a parent of three children, now all learning at home during COVID-19. Her son Matthew is 12 years old and attends middle school, her daughters Priya, 6, and Piper, 9, attend Pineridge Elementary School.
With the Ministry of Education leaving classroom decisions to the area school boards, and Prince Rupert School District 52 leaving the learning decisions to each individual teacher, there seems to be a lack of continuity and uniform education for students and parents across the province.
Each classroom teacher is permitted a personal approach in presentation and execution of the required curriculum work. Some teachers are sending home weekly packages of homework, some are utilizing various internet platforms and apps such as ‘Zoom’ for classroom face-time, some are sending emails, and some are touching base by telephone.
“They need to be in charge of how they are teaching their classrooms. I think we, as parents, need to adapt and need to figure it out. All of my kids’ teachers have been great.”
“I think forcing teachers to use platforms they are uncomfortable with can cause more problems than it will solve,” Browne said.
It might be frustrating for some parents to have their kids distance learning delivered in numerous ways, but it’s the teacher that knows their own students best, she said.
Irene LaPierre, superintendent of School District 52 said the board staff and teachers do understand how stressful the current times are for parents and caregivers.
“We appreciate that they may be feeling overwhelmed at the task of online learning and not to mention the many platforms that need to be learned especially if they have more than one child at home,” Lapierre said.
A lot of the work Browne has seen her children complete, is more review-like material so they do not regress from previous learning. She hasn’t had to ‘teach’ any new concepts or subjects, but it’s early days, she said.
Brown said she has seen firsthand the stressful impact that learning at home has taken on some parents.
“I think sometimes parents have unrealistic ideas of what teachers expect us to do … I think a lot of parents are expecting too much out of themselves and I do not think the teachers are expecting that of us,” Browne said. “What I’ve gotten from my kids teachers is that they don’t want us to be freaking out, they don’t want us to be stressed out, or trying to figure out how to give our kids the same education they’d be getting in the classroom.”
Lapierre suggests parents reach out to their child’s teacher just as they would if they were in class instruction at school.
“Let the teachers know where their child is at and ask questions about the at-home school work if they need clarification or even some help,” LaPierre said.
Browne hopes when educators assess the work submitted by students that they will take into consideration not just the quality of the work, but how much work has been accomplished. She points out that it may be difficult assessing a student because some students don’t have the technology or resources available to do work on the online platforms.
“Right now it is our job and we should be held accountable to make sure our kids are doing what’s assigned to them,” Browne said, noting that some parents are still working full time and may have difficulty ensuring everything gets done.
“Your kids are going to do as well as the effort you put into them right now… and, so if you just don’t want to do it, you can’t be mad if your kid falls behind during this time because at the end of the day, yes it’s the teachers job, but they’re your kids. Things may not be the way they’re supposed to be for the next couple of months. You just have to deal with it, and do what needs to be done.”
It was overwhelming for Browne when she picked up the first packages of work for her children, but she soon found a groove with staggering her time between the children and helped with one-on-one, she said. She sets the older two to reading or online work so she can assist the youngest.
“I would have to tell myself that they (educators) are not expecting perfection. They are expecting it to take some time.(The students) are not going to be punished if mommy can’t figure it out for a couple of days,” Browne said. “Once I talked myself down and told myself it’s not the end of the world, I realized we don’t need to panic, we don’t need to freak out, we just need to do our best. We’ll get done what we get done, and what we don’t, we will try again tomorrow.”
K-J Millar | Journalist
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