online school

Online School, Offline Sanity

We’ve managed to stay healthy during the second semester of the second grade. And I’m not talking only about staying COVID 19-free, but rather about keeping it together, with nerves and vocal cords preserved as much as possible. Summer break meant salvation and much-needed rest more than ever before. I didn’t think much about the next grade and the next school year, as decisions related to upcoming classes were not in my hands anyway - and we were waiting to see how the situation will unfold. 

Eventually, we were given two options: to attend all classes online, or to send our son to school every other week. And we’ve had to carefully consider our options. We’ve discussed the issue with some of our friends, schoolchildren’s parents just like us, and finally I even talked to pediatrician, seeking for an expert advice. Decision was made: we’ll be doing the fifty-fifty thing, trusting that we will be able to avoid isolation in the process, and hoping that at least some kind of socialization with his classmates will do our son some good. And that is how we embarked on this adventure, with all of our textbooks and notebooks carefully wrapped in plastic foil. The aunt has made a number of fancy-designed linen masks, and we were constantly repeating the mantra about how to behave in school. It all came down to several ground rules: do not take off the mask, don’t touch your face with unwashed hands, try not to get close to anyone and don’t allow anyone to get too close to you, wash and/or wipe your hands whenever you can - and I trust him completely, because I know how responsible and consistent he is when it comes to meeting our agreements. 

The first month of third grade is already behind us. My husband has put the list of school obligations on computer desktop, and it regularly turns into a list of overdue tasks. Especially during the online week. Monday - Environment, we are yet to catch up on the art lesson from last Wednesday, and we have never learned that poem from the last Friday’s music class. And so on… We cross one debt off our list, and replace it with a new one. Because he is staying home, my husband has committed himself to a role of teacher. Not just during the online week, but also during the week when our son has to physically attend classes. And with good reason, because half-an-hour lessons are not enough to do a quality work. OK, that is just 15 minutes less than regular lessons - but having in mind the fact that classes are not regular either, those 30 minutes are way too short.

At the very beginning, I was thinking mostly about how we will catch up with lessons, and I was glad that he is a third grade student (that WE - all three of us - are third grade students), so it’s easy - because there are no integrals, Napoleon, terrain of East Asia and Bernoulli’s equation… Don’t let me even start about mitosis. But I got stuck on a lesson from the Environment - habitats… Luckily, mathematics is his favorite subject, and - let me brag a little - he’s doing great. But at the same time, book reports are always a hustle…

And then, after several Environment ‘classes’ and a number of attempts to memorize some poem from the music class, I’ve started thinking about some other things… Do I know how to teach the lesson well enough? I use drawings, some visualization techniques, and somehow it works… I’m not sure how much he will remember in a few days’ time, but something’s got to stick in his head. But I’m starting to worry about something else. Does this form of education create a generation of dependent children, pupils who do not have to think much? Is it enough for them to superficially learn about some things? He is in the third grade and so far, he really did not have the opportunity to learn how to learn things. It sounds banal, but it’s not. The way he used to learn things - by listening in the class - doesn’t work anymore. And he doesn’t take me, as a teacher, seriously enough. Truth be told, sometimes it is difficult when we sit in the wee hours after all the other tasks and obligations. To sit alone, read the lesson and explain it to himself, or underline the important parts - well, he simply doesn’t know how to do that. Somehow I believe that older children have already learned to do that, so it’s at least a little bit easier for them. OK, sometimes I remember Bernoulli and the fact that not all parents are ready or even capable of acting as teachers for their children, and then it occurs to me that the grass is not much greener on their side either. But am I doing him an ill service by doing my best to portray the field as an artificial habitat, by drawing, asking questions? In a few years, when the pandemic is over, will I have to portray the battles of the world’s greatest warriors, or the economy of Western China? What about Newton and Archimedes???

I don’t know. I know that life must go on, that we have to adapt to a new normal, because who knows if and what new pandemic awaits us around the corner. I know, this is some kind of learning, this is a lesson itself. I have no problem with investing an effort or getting tired and nervous, as I see that as an investment into my child. I have learned to chant silently while he repeats a poem for the umpteenth time, trying to remember every single word correctly. But I’m scared of the end result of this kind of schooling. A gap in the knowledge that everyone will have. Not accustomed to having responsibility, to making an effort, to commitment and attention. At the very least, they have forgotten what they had learned before. Those children will grow up to be engineers, physicians, bakers. I know, we’ll manage to catch up somehow, for as long as there is no gunfire - but some bad habits, lessons not learned… will remain. Will we ever pay the high price of it?

Should I hope that once everything is over, it will be possible to make up for the lost time and learn some things properly? Or should I already start recalling memories and lessons from my school, or maybe looking for an online advice on how to become a better teacher?

Author: Tea Memic


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