Like Kindergarten All Over Again

Photo by Gautam Arora on Unsplash

We are now about six weeks into remote learning. We have experienced All Of The Mishaps, including: internet going out immediately before class starts, missing Zoom classes altogether, assignments not turned in, teachers getting dropped from the Zoom, not able to hear or be heard, not being able to log in, and saying things like “you must change out of your pajamas before class.”

For the most part, my 5th grader and 3rd grader have adapted well. There is a lot of consistency in their days. They are enjoying interacting with their friends.

Assignments have been the biggest challenge. Our district uses Google Classroom for everything. I diligently check the To Dos with my kids in the morning, specifically the Missing items. If something isn’t done, I send them to their desks to finish their work.

Then an email from the 3rd grade teacher alerted me to the fact that some work doesn’t appear in the To Do items. It might need to be completed in an external app or not have a specific Due Date assigned.

A few weeks later, another email from the 3rd grade teacher made me aware that my son had some unfinished assignments. I had neglected to check on a Friday so he was a few days behind. The teacher assured me he could still turn in the work. Another teacher emailed that my son had turned in a project, but forgot to record an audio clip of himself talking about the project (which we then scrambled to complete).

I have felt frustrated. Like I am failing my kids. That they are not doing what they should be doing.

It is nothing like spring, when they were first sent home due to Covid. That was a complete train wreck. The kids were left mostly to their own devices, with very little interaction from teachers. They spent hours per day “learning on their own” and very little got done. I wiped my hands clean of that school year.

But now, it seems likely that my kids will be home for the entire 2020-2021 school year. While the teachers have been very kind and understanding, I feel like my kids are underperforming. They have both always done well in school, so it has been hard for me to put my finger on what is happening.

Then the other day it hit me: I’ve been thinking of them like a 3rd grader and a 5th grader. But really, this year is more like kindergarten. Everything is new and being learned for the first time.

Kindergarteners get distracted in class, can’t navigate the building, and forget things. They haven’t learned those skills yet.

Just because my kids have had Chromebooks for years doesn’t mean that they are used to remote learning for an entire day. The attention span is not the same. Remembering to join different classes at different times takes some repetition. Reading instructions on their own means that something could be missed.

My 3rd grader has struggled the most with assignments. The leap from second grade homework to third grade homework is already huge, even with everyone in the building together. In third grade, the school provides all students with an assignment notebook. Teachers work on the concept of hearing an assignment given verbally, and writing down what needs to be done. Parents must “sign off” each day that homework is completed.

When I picked up supplies for third grade before the start of this school year, I thought “Where is the assignment notebook?”

This is an example of a skill that my son is now not learning in the same way that his brother did. He checks a To Do list, but he’s not going through the process of writing down his assignments. They’re not being committed to memory in the same way. And since I do not have sight to everything in the Google Classroom, I can’t help much.

Telling myself this has allowed me to breathe more easily. Maybe my son will form this skill next year instead of this year. Maybe he is learning other skills by being on his Chromebook so much.

I kept expecting some type of similar learning to occur, even with the remote environment. I give enormous credit to teachers for the work that they have put in. But I also have to recognize that my kids are still kids. Tech savvy as they may be, self-managing is a skill that is hard for adults to handle – let alone children.

I have to trust that the teachers recognize the differences in how the material is being absorbed in this environment and will continue to give the students (and the parents) some grace.