Educators Share Crisis-Schooling Tips for Memphis Parents

And just like that, we all became teachers. 

Parents have always been teachers, of a sort. But most of us have relied on and been grateful for the professional educators that have created life-shaping educational experiences for our children. 

And now, here in the “New Normal,” we wonder how they did it. How do you plan a day of learning that covers all the subjects, engages your children, and motivates them to dig in when things are difficult? And what if, heaven forbid, there’s more than one student, and the students don’t have identical learning needs? WHAT THEN? 

Well, we have some tips, but before we get started, please keep a few things in mind:

  • Take it easy. Homeschoolers have time to PLAN! We didn’t get to do any planning for this, thus the new term “crisis schooling.” Be patient with yourselves and your kids as we all figure this out.
  • Rest! Many of us are still working, in or outside the home, while also helping our children navigate their learning, and keeping up with chores that never stop. Everyone in your home will need breaks.
  • Keep trying. Whether you’re using the Shelby County Schools resources, assignments from your school, or new resources like Discovery Education and Wide Open School, find things that work for your child. You can do this!

Now that we’ve taken a deep breath, let’s get inspired! We talked to two of Memphis’s education all-stars to get some learning-at-home tips that incorporate their expertise as both teachers AND parents. Here’s what they had to say:

LaShanda Bell, Assistant Principal, Peabody Elementary School, SCS, 17 years educational experience

With all children, and especially with older children, it’s important to acknowledge the reason that we’re doing school at home, and stay in touch with the range of emotions our kids are experiencing. 

As parents navigate crisis schooling with older children, the key “levers” are:

  • Regularly take a pulse on how the child is feeling about what they’re experiencing.
  • Create a schedule, but allow yourself to be flexible.
  • Allow for choices, so that the student can have some ownership in what they are learning.

As an educator, I know that my son’s school work is important, but as a mom I also have to ensure that I pay close attention to my child’s emotions. Here’s how I use these levers in our home: 

Ms. Bell’s son completes work at home during the COVID-19 “safer at home” mandate.
  • My son keeps up with the news, so we start the day by talking about what he has read and watched; we discuss the statistics of the virus, and we talk about what it all means for Memphis and the world.
  • I use this to gauge how he is feeling before focusing on the academics. Then we plan his schedule.
  • We differentiate the schedule depending on that day’s needs. For example, we might start with something that is active to relax him, or maybe it’s important for him to have a choice in the activities that we do, or maybe it’s a great day to tackle a heavier workload.  

Working with your children to find the right schedule for your family can have great results. Good luck!

Kat McRitchie, Educator Coach & Alumni Relations Manager for Memphis Teacher Residency, 17 years educational experience

I have younger children, so for me it’s important to get organized, stay involved, and celebrate the wins. The ideas that follow are working in my house, but each family should feel comfortable finding what works for them. 

Gather the schoolwork: Depending on the age and number of your children, the week may go more smoothly if you can spend a bit of time preparing over the weekend. Here are some easy steps to take: 

  • Start with what the school is sending home. If you have directions from school, follow them! If you’re unsure of what to do, call or email your teacher, if you can. That’s the expert who knows your kid!
  • Use the SCS resources, divided by grade level here. On Mondays and Tuesdays, you can pick up printed packets at food distribution sites. See those here
  • Kids love schedules—REALLY! And if you need to share screens, like we do, schedules will help. There can be flexibility. For small children, provide productive choices for independent time. Let them choose to read a book, exercise or go outside, or go online: try Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems, Go Noodle, or typing lessons

Don’t miss out on learning more about your child: We didn’t sign up for this, but it CAN be an opportunity to get to know our kids as learners.

  • We’re writing in daily “Coronavirus Journals.” We write about feelings, we draw, and sometimes we write what we’ll do when this is over. We have good talks, and it will help us remember this time.
  • I’m learning more about what motivates my kids. Sometimes it’s having a plan, sometimes it’s treats (cookies, outdoor time, screen time), one child likes to alternate “fun” subjects with “not-so-fun,” and older children may like to work toward a goal—like a Facetime call with friends. 
  • Think outside the box. Turn paper plane building into a chance to write a hypothesis, test different styles, and track the results! Build a town out of cardboard and talk about what a town needs. Practice letters in sidewalk chalk outside. Learning can be fun—and you and your kids can enjoy it together.
Ms. McRitchie’s son shows off a paper airplane and a chart to compare the outcomes for different models, part of his work during COVID-19.

Celebrate learning : Find ways to learn in new ways and shout out the great things your kids are doing. Remember, this is all wild and crazy and new for them, too! 

  • Celebrate every day things: when your kids put in a good day of work, or finish their work by a certain time. These “normal” accomplishments matter and give us a chance to say “good job!”
  • Notice when your children choose to do something active, or creative, or educational and celebrate that! With little children, you can often observe your kids using their new knowledge – as they count, or learn new words. Shout them out for the effort they make and the steps they take!

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