The announcement of Lockdown 2.0 in Metropolitan Melbourne, was not a shock to me, BUT, the announcement that I would have to revisit the experience of schooling my children, whilst holding down a job, and keeping the house somewhat clean... Well, that? Yes. That was a shock. Memories I had buried deep in my mind, bolted to the forefront of my consciousness where I could no longer ignore them. ‘I cannot do this again’.
My family and I had watched as the numbers of COVID-19 cases increased day by day around Melbourne. We watched as postcodes with clusters of cases were locked down and policed in, and we listened as the rumours of a second wave were being supported by more and more evidence. So when, Daniel Andrews announced that metropolitan Melbourne would be reverting to stage 3 lockdowns, it wasn’t unexpected, and I was ready. In fact, in some ways I was welcoming the news as a break from the craziness of life that had already started to creep back in. But, it was our premier’s following words that I was completely unprepared for "I want to be upfront and let parents know that a return to remote learning for these kids is a possibility, if that's what [health experts] tell us is safest." I turned to my mum who stood next to me. ‘I won’t be able to see the kids again’ she said, tears welling up in her eyes… ‘I can’t home school the kids again’. It was all I could say. It was all I could think.
In the days that followed, the shock subsided, I vented a little to my closest friends, and gained perspective. We were still the lucky ones. And really, as I reflected, having to school the kids from home, whilst trying to work was a far better problem to have than not having a job anymore. But, this time, I wouldn’t do it the same. I would take lockdown 2.0 as a chance for redemption, and remote learning would have to take a back seat to the realism of what could actually be achieved, whilst still maintaining some sense of family cohesion, after all… we would all be spending a lot of time together over the next six weeks and we would have to make it work.
REMOTE LEARNING 1.0 – MY EXPECTATIONS
Remote learning in lockdown 1.0 was a new experience for almost all parents AND teachers across Australia. Heading into it, I was naively enthusiastic, always a high achiever I intended to smash this teaching gig, and there was definitely a small sense of excitement at playing teacher for a little with my kids. I did a big online shop to stock up on books, paper, pencils, and even bought a whiteboard, pens, and some ‘well done’ stickers to really indulge my closet teaching aspiration. I have three kids, Andy in grade 4, Will in grade 1 and Alice, 2 ½ and not yet in school, and I had an idyllic image of them all raising their eyes attentively and lovingly to my schooling instructions, a captive audience to my lessons of life… I mean maths, reading and literacy. What a valuable role I would play.
My husband and I both work flexible hours, and had the good fortune of working in industries that hadn’t been affected by Covid and could easily transition to remote working from home. We decided to tag team the teaching and working days, allowing both of us some time in our shed/office to focus solely on work, while the other focused on quality education for our children. I displayed our teaching equipment proudly to my husband (who seemed somewhat less enthusiastic about it… ) and read all the great information that our amazing primary school had sent to parents in advance of remote learning kicking off. I was ready to rock this remote learning experience.
REMOTE LEARNING 1.0 – THE REALITY.
It’s fair to say that a number of things hit me by surprise during my experience as a teacher to my kids during remote learning, and it didn’t exactly pan out as the family bonding experience that I had imagined.
I took for granted the inherent respect that students have for a teacher in a classroom that enables them to listen to and actually attempt the completion of a task. I also took for granted basic computer skills and how slow completion of basic tasks are for a grade 1 student who is still learning to open and close a window, move the curser within a text box or fully connect the plug of headphones into the right part of the laptop to enable sound. I discovered after a few days, that my husband had a far more relaxed view to his days of schooling (learned through my kids announcing they had finished all of the work before 10am each day…), and I also learned, that not all of my children displayed the same high standards to the completion of their work that I had perhaps imagined, or expected. But mostly, I learned how easy it is for siblings to annoy and distract each other, particularly in the background of the others’ virtual classroom meetings.
Despite the challenges, there were silver linings. My youngest son seemed in awe of my intelligence when I explained how many pieces of a pizza made up 1/3 (winning!), and I bonded with my oldest son, when we learned together how to rule a perfect hexagon. I learned that my two & a half year old actually can be entertained without leaving the house, and I now have a blackboard, whiteboard and an endless supply of ‘well-done’ stickers, all of which will save me hundreds of dollars when lock down eventually ends.
It wasn’t until 6pm on a Friday night though, as I was leaning over my grade 4’s shoulder checking that he had completed 100% of his tasks, that it dawned on me, that perhaps I was taking this all a little too seriously. I had checked in on my husband every hour or so the previous day to make sure that he was applying the same high standards to our children’s education that I was (he wasn’t), and in hindsight, perhaps, of all the things I’d taken for granted, the most important was still left unnoticed. Surely, in the middle of an event we never, ever expected to find ourselves in, locked down in our house, with just ourselves and our bikes for entertainment all day, every day, surrounded by friends and family that had been stood down from jobs, an economic downturn compared to the great depression, and the looming threat of a deadly virus circulating, surely the most important thing was just being happy. Just making sure that my kids, and my husband, and myself, felt happy when we our heads hit the pillow at the end of the night?
REMOTE LEARNING 2.0 – REDEMPTION
It’s not about me. After the shock of remote learning 2.0 being announced, I realised that my own high expectations would have to go. It was never about how good a job I could do at remote learning, or how good a teacher my kids would think I was. So, this time around, I’m going to lose the whiteboard. I will make sure my kids have everything they need to sit down at their computer for remote learning by 9am. I will help them whenever they need me to, but I will also stop when I can see they’ve had enough, AND I will stop when I’ve had enough. I will focus on work on my days ‘off’ from teaching, and just be eternally grateful that my husband and I can share the responsibility of looking after the kids from home whist still having jobs.
I will be aware that whilst the education of my kids is extremely important, they will return to their school environment and have the outstanding teaching experience of qualified teachers soon enough. And until that day, I still have an important job to do. I have to ensure my family and myself stay happy. It’s my job to use my experience as a mum, to do what’s best for my family. I am extremely grateful to the incredible work our school did last time, and I know that they will do it again this time. They’ve made it as easy for us as possible, and I’m going to leave it to them. If my husband wants to spend his days taking the kids for a bike ride, and watching movies, then I will celebrate that, and cherish the memories that this will create for them all. I will indulge my children with their much cherished face times with their grandparents, and if my kids roll their eyes when I start to explain that I really do use maths in my job… I’m going to learn from my daughter’s favourite Disney movie… and let it go.
Here’s to redemption in remote learning 2.0.