School in the Time of COVID: 5 Tips From Teachers

School in the Time of COVID: 5 Tips From Teachers

San Diego teachers share their advice for handling the school closures
The Beaches Are Open! Reading School in the Time of COVID: 5 Tips From Teachers 7 minutes Next Positive Impacts of the COVID Lockdown

By Andrew Iida l Head Writer & Resident EMT

When California closed all schools and non-essential businesses, a lot of people found themselves stuck at home with absolutely nothing to do. But for those of us with kids, the school closures meant that we had to suddenly adapt to an unprecedented, sometimes overwhelming situation.

After the lockdown ends, if I hear anyone saying that teachers are overpaid, I’ll have some very strong and angry words for them.

When you have kids stuck at home all day, every day, it’s so tempting to just turn on a TV or tablet and let them waste a few hours in front of a screen. But we know that we have a duty to our kids to teach and guide them, helping them become the best kind of person they can be.

So we reached out to the experts, and teachers from elementary school to high school gave us their best pieces of advice for teaching from home.

1. Reach out to teachers

The teachers we talked to are still working full-time. They’re still holding meetings, teaching lessons, and posting online content for their students. But it can be difficult to figure out how to use the new technology or how to help your kids when they have questions. Whenever you need help with school work, the first step is always to contact the teacher.

"Communication with teachers is the key to distance learning success. If you or your child is struggling with an assignment, if links don’t work, if instructions are difficult, please reach out to your child’s teacher. Many teachers are establishing regular “office hours” for students and parents to reach out with questions and difficulties.

Be aware that your child’s teacher does not expect you to be a classroom teacher. Teachers understand that, even for them, teaching one’s own children poses difficulties that classroom teachers don’t experience."

- Trish d’Entremont, 5th grade teacher at Ada Harris

2. Create a schedule

Kids and adolescents thrive with structure. Regular routines make their home a safe, secure place. With so much uncertainty in the world, the pandemic has a lot of kids (and adults) anxious about what tomorrow will bring.

When their home life is stable and predictable, it can reduce apprehension about the rapidly changing world outside. It can help to make the schedule close to the child’s normal school routine.

"I think it's important to set up a routine for your kids each day. Kids of all ages like to know what is expected of them and what their day looks like. Depending on their age, you may need to make a picture chart or write it out. The child should be involved in creating what their day looks like but not be solely in charge.

With that being said, you also during this time must be flexible. If something isn't working and it's become a negative pattern, switch it up. If just for the day or at a specific time a child is resisting to do what's next on their list, maybe it's time for a break.

As a teacher, I tried to recreate the day for my students as much as possible. We start each morning off with a zoom meeting to say the pledge, I continued the tradition of having a helper and Cardio Club. We do certain activities on specific days at home just like we did when we were in school.

But most importantly be happy, be healthy and have some fun. Every family's situation is different from the next. Do what you can and don't worry."

- Lynne Sallans, 1st grade teacher at Cardiff Elementary 

3. Let them be independent, especially adolescents

Especially if you have a teenager at home, you’ll have to find a balance between maintaining a schedule and allowing them to be independent. It’s still important to learn and complete assignments, but in this unique situation, it can help to be more flexible than the more rigid structure of regular school.

“Parents need to remember that giving a teenager choices provides them the control they desire yet gets the job done (e.g. Do you want to work on your English paper before or after lunch?).

If all else fails and the parent-child relationship becomes confrontational, enlist the help of the teacher to talk with the student and check on their progress. Many times the message is more impactful when the delivery is made by an outside source.”

- Paul Brice, high school math teacher at San Dieguito Academy

4. Make time for outside play

The “stay-at-home” order never meant that you couldn’t go outside. We still need to take precautions to stay safe, but exercise is an important part of staying physically healthy, and it reduces the risk of major complications from the virus. Just as importantly, exercise promotes mental health, and is known to reduce depression and anxiety. If things are becoming confrontational at home, it might be time to take a hike.

“Although many assignments and activities might take place on digital devices, it is important to get regular exercise. If you are able to be outside, while maintaining social distancing, that is great. Fresh air and sunshine have a positive impact on emotional well-being.”

- Trish d’Entremont

If you need an awesome, safe, outdoor activity for the whole family, Everyday California is back open for rentals for kayaks, surfboards, stand up paddle boards, and snorkel gear. We’re taking extra precautions to keep our community healthy.

5. Remember that the pandemic is having a huge effect on kids

Mental Health Awareness Month could not have come at a better time. This situation is something that none of us have ever experienced, and after it’s over, the world will be different than we remember. COVID-19 will be a huge, defining moment for millions of American childhoods. For kids (and most adults), this is a scary time full of uncertainty, and we need to make sure that we help our kids make it through with confidence and optimism.

"Parents should keep in mind that priority number one is the health of their family, physical and especially mental health. For parents, realize this is their kid's 9/11 moment. They know the pre-pandemic normal, and the families will have to navigate the post-pandemic new normal, whatever that will be, together. And the kids are going to have a lot of questions and fears.

But we will get through this for the better."

- Geoff Westermeyer

Need more information?

Ms. d’Entremont has recommended the following websites for parents:

San Diego County Office of Education "What's Happening" May 2020  

San Diego County Office of Education’s monthly publication lists free resources for kids, including mental health support, online activities, and lesson plans.

Social Emotional Learning at Home

School isn’t just about academic knowledge. This site lists resources to help continue your child’s social and emotional development at home.

We’re all in this together. If you have any resources or tips for parents, please post them in the comments below.

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