With the recent disruption of our daily lives, the focus of many educators has been to get children into a routine. The rest of us need the same thing! Here are some tips:
Define Your Email Response Time
Tell your clients (or students and families) your response time for emails (24 or 48 hours). Giving this window will allow you time to organize yourself for responding. You won’t have to respond within the hour, and it’s likely better to give some wait time between responses.
If you tend to write back late at night, schedule the response to send during the next day’s working hours. This is not just for you; it’s for your team.
Set a Weekly Social Time
Find a way to connect with others and Zoom or Facetime with friends and family. It’s the perfect time to reconnect with people outside of your region (friends from your hometown, friends from college, etc.).
Designate a time when your family is not using screens. It’s ever more important to connect with the people around you while also disconnecting from screens.
Go for a walk, bike ride, or just sit on your porch or balcony. The world’s air seems a little cleaner than it was a few weeks ago.
Great things can come from exploring items that are new (or seem new) for children.
Here are a few of my ideas, and you and your child will come up with more. What’s great is that they’ll be occupied for a bit while you work from home. Teachers, you can make some of these open ended assignments to see what children can create!
Using a roll of masking tape:
Hopscotch with Tape- It’s cleaner than chalk and can be on any type of floor!
Tape Maze- Practice visual planning, tracking, and balance by taping a maze on the floor.
Building a fort:
Lifting pillows and cushions is an organizing activity for children, and they’ll be calmer when they have the opportunity for heavy lifting. Get out a few blankets, and let your children build! If you have a flashlight, it can turn into a secluded space to read books or build with Legos.
Selecting new toys for the bath:
Bath toys don’t need to be labeled bath toys! You can teach your child how to select toys that are bath friendly, and then bath time can be engaging for longer. Think Legos, plastic animals, etc.
Doing the dishes by hand:
Fill the sink with bubble water and let your child help do the dishes. You can hide surprises in the water to make it even more fun! But really, the bubbles are enough.
Did you ever notice that boxes are more interesting to children than what’s inside? Collect clean recyclables in a basket and let your child build something from it. Think of the possibilities!
Everyone is experiencing trauma right now related to the rapid and stark changes in our lives from just a few weeks ago. We are all grieving the loss and worrying about what’s next.
For some, it’s worrying about how to make it through the day and trying to work in a completely different way. Add a child into that household, and it’s even more to navigate. For others, there’s no knowing when they’ll have income again or how much longer they’ll have a home. Others are concerned about ever interacting with people again, fearing contracting COVID-19. For some, it’s all of the above.
The one thing all of us have in common is a collective shift in how we see and experience our lives, and that raises our stress levels– no matter the situation.
We all deal with it in different ways. Take the time to pause and empathize with others. Say something positive, give yourself time before responding, and choose kindness. We all need it.
Teachers continue to be a powerful source of comfort and support to students. The reality of today is that the academics matter less than they did two weeks ago. Our focus on the social and emotional development of children is more critical now than before.
Before schools closed, our daily schedules were so routine, they were automatic. January-March has always been the time of year that students are most productive in the classroom for me as a teacher, and that was cut short. Now, routine means something different. It no longer means ELA at 9 AM every day; it means knowing what to do from home where school routines aren’t easy to organize. Create a routine across the week that repeats each week, so children start to remember Monday as the DEAR day rather than the PE or Art day.
Supporting families and children to have a routine is imperative right now. Focus more on academic habits than on academic content. Think of activities that can easily have different content and work on the similar skills that strengthen with practice.
Here’s a sample schedule for ELA (Grades 1 and up, easily modified for K):
With a schedule like this, your time can be spent connecting with students (replying to the journal entries each week, phone calls) and not planning daily lessons. If you have small group video calls, you can ask them to share their independent reading or reflect on the audiobook you assigned. Your one on one check ins can be about the Wednesday journal and supporting children to navigate these complex times.
Here in San Francisco, we’re one week into remote learning, and I’ve heard from parents about how they’re struggling to manage screen time. It’s a guaranteed way to engage your child while you get things done, and now with most of children’s days spent on a screen with lessons being taught virtually, it is way too much. The fallout behavior from screen time can be hard to handle, so limiting it will make life easier.
How do you manage?
Use teachers as allies. Request that most assignments are handwritten and uploaded rather than typed. Ask them to assign screen-free reading. Ask them to assign ways they can help around the house (cooking, folding laundry, etc.).
Listen to Audiobooks. Screens aren’t the only way to entertain! Audiobooks are an incredible way to engage children as young as three or four. If you can, read the book to your child first, and then have him or her listen to it. The connection from the first read will last for several re-listening sessions. Right now, Audible has opened a portion of their library during school closures.
Find a Podcast or two. Podcasts are also a great way to fill time. Put it on the schedule when you need to focus on your own work.
An Album a Day. Listen to an album a day; share your favorites and expand what your child loves. Take turns picking the album, so you can hear what they love, too.
Set a screen schedule. Some families have special days for movies, which makes it easier to say no. There are ways to put restrictions on devices, and hiding the cord is always an option, too.
Any other ideas? Comment below!
Today, take a moment to silence your phone, close your computer, and stick your head out of the window. Those of us working from home are spending too much time staring at screens. Take a break! Play a board game, read a book, write a story, and seize the opportunity to be present.
The changes we’ve experienced in the last week are unprecedented. We are navigating a world we didn’t expect to navigate as parents, balancing being parents, teachers, and employees at the same time. The experience of children in upper elementary and middle school is especially more challenging as they are accustomed to interacting with teachers about their learning (and tend to fight their parents about it).
The relationships students have built with their teachers continue to be a priceless commodity. The distance will actually bring students and teachers closer as we’re all looking for a way to socially connect while physically distancing.
Catch yourself if you’re arguing with your child about schoolwork, time management, quality of work, and so on, and ask your child if everything is ok. What’s happening underneath likely has nothing to do with the assignment and everything to do with the sudden changes and missing face to face interactions with teachers and peers. When you have a moment later, reach out to your child’s teacher and share your observations, challenges, and triumphs.
Your child’s teacher can help to coach your upper elementary and middle school student, giving feedback on their schedule or work. For example, a teacher suggesting that the child do his or her math during breakfast or right after yoga will be better received from a teacher than a parent. Use this connection and reach out to your child’s teacher for support. We are here and thinking about you and your children and wanting to help and connect more than ever.