Navigating this new normal as a mom and a teacher
By Laurie Bass
Years from now, when we look back on the fiasco that is 2020, I wonder how we will feel about our foray into virtual learning and teaching. Will it be one of those experiences that time smiles upon, casting it in a friendlier light? Will we think about the extra time we got with our children and smile wistfully? Will we pat ourselves on the back for navigating uncharted territory with gumption and grit? Or, more realistically, will we shake our heads and praise the Lord on high that it was just a short season, and against all odds and despite many setbacks, we survived it and our children did too?
I don’t know about you, but virtual learning is not my favorite. I am a people person. I like crowded hallways and crazy loud stadiums and seeing my sixth graders in person every day. I like hugs and big gatherings, and I’m super awkward in online meets. I would have NEVER chosen this. But just like everything else in life, what we want and what we get do not always line up. Sometimes hard things happen. Sometimes we can’t have our way. Sometimes what is best is not what is easy or fun, and we simply have no choice but to make the most of a tough situation.
Mamas, that’s us right now. I currently have three sons in three different schools, and my baby is starting kindergarten via iPad. I myself am teaching my sweet middle schoolers on Google Meet each day, something I had never even imagined trying to do before March. Some of you are in the same boat, dragging kids along with you to work. Others of you may not even have that option, leaving them with family members or friends, or like me with my older boys, leaving them home alone to manage their learning independently, just praying they get up with their alarms. There’s no doubt about it, this is not ideal.
But what I am learning and the reason I am writing is that despite the chaos and seemingly relentless stream of disappointments and compromises, the world has continued to turn and we have made it this far. We can handle this, too.
When I was approached by a friend to share a few tips about virtual learning, my initial instinct was to say absolutely not and run the other direction. After all, who am I to offer advice when I myself am such an incredibly hot mess? I don’t even know if I’m coming or going these days. How can I possibly expect to help anyone else? But after thinking about it, I realized that was exactly why I should write. Because ladies, let me tell you right now that if I can make this thing work, anyone can. So, without further ado, here are five tips for surviving online learning from a fellow Mama, teacher, and general mess of a person.
This is not just a virtual learning tip, but a life-in general tip. So much of how we manage life can be determined by our attitudes. Keep smiling, Mama! Your kids will take cues from you. If you’re excited, they will be much more likely to be excited, too, and teaching our kiddos to find the silver linings in life is one of the greatest opportunities these crazy times offer us.
There is about a 99.9% chance that things will not go as planned during this time. You’ll have technical difficulties. Your kid will miss class. Assignments you thought were done will not be done, and you’ll get emails from the teacher. You know what? It’s FINE. Refuse to stress about it, and just keep doing your best. It’s good enough.
Follow a Routine
This is a biggie. We in the Bass household are late sleepers. We are also video game players and generally lazy people. Summer is a free-for-all in this house and adjusting to school is tough. However, making your kids get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, and get into a specific spot for learning will be good for them. Just because they aren’t physically going to school doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be mentally going to school. If you stress the importance of following a schedule and taking their school work seriously, it will help your kids enormously.
Resist the Urge to Criticize
Just as things will certainly not go perfectly on your end, they will also not go perfectly on the school’s end either. There has been a complete and total overhaul to every single thing we do, and every school and teacher is learning as we go. Please be patient. Be kind. Show your kids what empathy looks like. The world needs more of it these days.
Give Yourself some Grace
Sweet Mama, no one in the whole wide world expects you or your kids to do this perfectly, so please hear me when I tell you that you don’t have to. This is hard enough without setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves. Do your best. Love your babies. Teach them how to go with the flow and learn from their mistakes. No one will look back on this in 10 years and judge you for the ways you fell short. No, I think in the end, we will look back on this time with a sense of pride, knowing that we did what we had to do- and we made it.
Laurie Bass, Waynesville Middle School teacher and mom to three boys, offers humble advice as parents, educators and other caregivers navigate this strange new normal.
This article was published in the Rumble newsletter. Sign up for weekly women's newsletter here.