Surviving remote learning (again) in lockdown

As Victoria endures its fourth lockdown, schools and parents across the state have yet again been asked to work together to limit the impact of school closures upon students’ education.

For parents of school-aged children, such a scenario is stressful as they juggle working from home, running the household, looking after children and overseeing schoolwork.

For parents of school-aged children, remote learning can be stressful to manage.Credit:iStock

This challenge is not the same for everyone, as one parent told me: “We’re all in the same storm, but in different boats.”

As we tackle what we hope is only a week away from school, we should take comfort from the fact that lessons have been learnt from previous lockdowns, with schools more ready than they were when lockdown hit last year.

School leaders have reported a strong level of confidence that systems, processes and teaching are in place to provide maximum support for students and families. Their main concern is that remote learning can be difficult, even daunting, for many parents.

To help ease this stress, teachers are working hard to adapt home-learning plans to meet students’ unique needs, supporting and encouraging parents to follow the plan as far as is practicable.

What is important is that parents do not try and take on the role of teacher through attempting to recreate a classroom environment. Instead, they should treat the plan as they would homework – setting aside time for their children to complete the work.

Even though we are in lockdown, your school and teacher are still playing a role in educating your child. If you need any help in putting the plan in place, or if your child is struggling, then speak to the school as they can help provide you with the support you need.

What is most critical is everyone’s wellbeing. Remote learning should not be seen as a burden – the best advice for parents is to plan for the week at home with the children, keeping in mind that life, even in lockdown, must go on around schoolwork.

One finding from the Pivot report commissioned by the Coalition of Australian Principals into the lockdown periods last year was that schools were providing more community support than ever by connecting with families about the learning of their children and involving support mechanisms when needed, such as school psychologists, social workers and non-government youth support services.

Life, even in lockdown, must go on around schoolwork.Credit:Getty

All families are different, requiring differing levels of support. Many will struggle with mental health issues during lockdown and self-care for parents is crucial in managing these circumstances.

This week will be tiring, and trying, for many. Adequate rest will help. Steady contact with others by telephone or online is important. Feelings of isolation can creep into our lives but can be overcome with such contact.

Helplines are there to help. People should not be afraid to use them. The last period of lockdown saw record usage of such services.

Schools emphasise the importance of establishing patterns and routines. Younger children will rely on their parents to support this. The work set for students to complete may vary from school and age, for primary school aged children there will be literacy and numeracy components to focus on.

Putting aside some time each day for reading with and to children is a very worthwhile thing to do.

Putting aside some time each day for reading with and to children is a very worthwhile thing to do. Talk with your kids about books and stories. It is a great way to connect as well as foster comprehension and familiarity with texts.

To help ease the stress on all, try to manage your exposure and that of the children to the extensive coverage around the virus. Spending time with the children as you assist them with their schoolwork can be a happy experience and diversion from worry.

Making a plan for each day of the week your children will be away from their school will help you establish a routine that works and remember you are not alone, with many teachers being in contact with your child electronically. It is important that these scheduled contacts be honoured. Students value the contact with their teachers and vice versa. Primary school teachers may have daily meetings with their class online. If you have any issues accessing these meetings, then contact your school as they can help you get online.

While families may be worried about what lies ahead in this period of lockdown there are lessons from our past experience that can help us through.

Our first is to wellbeing, without it nothing else will function. Get the routines and structures in place which will provide a predictability in our lives we all need and get help when you need it.

Do that and you will get through this week and those beyond.

Malcolm Elliott is president of the Primary Principals Association.

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