Opinion: Is it virtual learning or virtual nightmare?


Parents are stressed out. Virtual education is a virtual nightmare for some. Here are some tips to help things run a little more smoothly.

Have them fed and clothed before class starts

Start with the basics. You wouldn't send your student into a traditional classroom with a bowl of cereal or a bag of Doritos, so don't do it now. Two months ago, a student wouldn't sit in class and groom himself, so take care of that business before class starts. And, yes, your child does need to have on pants.

Sit up!

Let's begin with what a successful student does not do. A successful student does not roll around in the bed during class. A successful student is not wrapped up in her comforter. I tell my students it's fine to sit on the bed, but they must be on top of the covers, and they need to be in an upright position. You can't raise your hand or even hit the little "raise hand" button if you're all wrapped up in the sheets. I recommend a chair with a hard surface for their devices. A desk is ideal, but the breakfast table works fine.

Pretend to be calm

Some kids do better with virtual learning than others. Same with the grown-ups. I give this speech at the beginning of each school year, and the same lesson applies now: "It's fine for you to be nervous, but do not be nervous in front of your child. Students mirror their parents' emotions. Your job is to play the role of a calm parent who has confidence in the teachers. Vent to your friends and family, but don't do it in front of your child. If you are calm and confident, your child will likely follow suit."

This message to parents is even more important now. If you don't trust the distance learning plan, your child won't either. If you take it in stride and take it seriously, they will, too. If you are a mess, your child will be a disaster. We all know the saying about the apple and the tree.

Shhh ... We can all hear you

Most parents do not know how Zoom works, so this is important information. If I can hear your student and you are anywhere nearby, then I also can hear you. I can hear you fuss at your child for not putting his dishes away. I can hear you scold your husband for not wiping down the counter. I can hear you complain to your girlfriend about the maid not showing up. Sometimes what happens in the kitchen needs to stay in the kitchen.

Keep in mind, many teachers record their Zoom sessions and post them for children who were absent or need to review. Zoom sessions are not edited. They are posted in their entirety. Let that sink in.

Take a break

When your child has an online class, take a break. Put your child in his room at his desk and close the door. If he's at the kitchen table, then go to your room and close your door. Let the teacher do her job. She didn't need you to stand over your child in the traditional classroom, and she doesn't need that now. Good teachers are trying to keep the classroom routine the same as much as possible.

That structure and familiarity provide comfort to the kids, especially during this time of uncertainty. You're trying to be helpful, but don't get in the way of the teacher's routine. Stay in your lane. If your child is not doing what he's supposed to do, you'll find out. We are operating in a time of over communication. You'll get an e-mail or a call or maybe both. Sometimes, I text my parents during e-class:

"Please help your child with his new user name and password."

"Please have your child sit closer to the keyboard or put on pants."

"Might want to move the wine glass off the kitchen island. I'm sure it's from last night since it's only 10:07 a.m. No judgment here. Just wanted to let you know we all can see it."

After each text, I try to include a gentle reminder about some Zoom classes being recorded and posted.

We're all in this together

For better or worse, we really are all in this together, and we don't know how long we're going to be here. We're trying to make every room a classroom. We're teaching and learning from our decks and back porches and from our bedrooms and our playrooms. It's not easy, but we are getting the job done. Virtual classrooms give the kids a chance to see each other and a chance to see their teachers. It gives them a schedule and a routine. It's not ideal, but it's better than nothing.

Parents, you don't have to worry about being your child's teacher. On behalf of all dedicated teachers, I say: We've got this. We've got your child. We love your child, and all is well.

You've gone from dropping off in the carpool lane to logging on to the computer, but the concept is the same. You trusted us months ago. Trust us now.

So, comb their hair, close the door, and enjoy the break. Take a deep breath. Be calm and confident. Pretend if necessary.

Every home is a classroom right now. We're working together. We're figuring it out, and, overall, we're doing well. We've got this. We've got this for as long as needed. We're calm, we're strong, and we've got this.

Tammy Davis is a writer and teacher finding her way in this new world of virtual education. She leads most of her classes from her back porch with her dog by her side. Visit her website at www.tammydavisstories.com to read The Corona Chronicles, parts one and two.