It’s 4:15 p.m. and my CM2 student has just gotten off the bus. I’m ready: the small snack is ready, the table is cleared of debris, the dog is in the garden kennel to minimize distractions.
“What do you have for homework today?” I ask.
This is a loaded question because I have never had so much access to what my child is working on in school. Since the third year, Chromebooks have been introduced – although this is our distant year for the COVID-19 pandemic. Once in-person school resumed en masse last year, Chromebooks came home while quarantined (at least three times in the fall alone, to my knowledge).
This year was the dreaded phase of college, and Chromebooks are part of everyday life. Hey, I’m not necessarily hitting it. At any time, I can access my son’s Google Classroom account to see what homework he has, due dates, subjects, and grades.
By coupling this with my Parent Vue account, I can see much of the same information, teacher messages, even attendance. Then there are the emails — from the district newsletter to main messages, teachers emphasizing a task or project, fundraisers, pep rallies, wacky weeks — there there is never a dull moment.
But with all the access you could imagine, a whole new world has opened up to what it means to be a good partner for my child’s teachers and a mentor for my 10-year-old’s homework – and with him, an overwhelming sense of responsibility to keep track of it all.
Some things I can see in the online daily planner; some are just a simple word or phrase that I don’t understand, and I have to rely on my child to explain (hopefully accurately). Still others not counted digitally are old school paper documents handed out in class, which I quickly discovered are easily piled into a locker, never to be seen in the light of day again.
It’s not a simple matter of checking the “home” folder in their backpacks. There are video tutorials to watch to help your child through virtual science labs, topics to follow without the benefit of your child’s classroom instruction. In many ways, I feel like I’m going through a re-education, because the world has changed in the 40 years since I went to Montessori preschool in 1981.
And then there’s the common core — which has changed the way a lot of things are taught. (What’s a “math mountain” anyway?) I know how to multiply and divide, but I don’t know how to show the work the right way. I’m an executive at a media company and I’ve never felt more uneducated than when I have to relearn how to calculate fractions and decimals.
And I really want to do a good job. I want my child to succeed. I take his education seriously – and find that I email teachers more often than my son probably sees them in person. I have to check the bag, check the online classroom, check email, and rely on my 10-year-old son and his overworked teachers to fill in the blanks.
Amid the digital panacea schools are now operating, we are upping our game in some ways. Children are exposed to multitasking, various learning methods, analog and virtual tools for mastering concepts, all good things.
I fear, however, that the “kids left behind” are the parents. For us, it’s more “panic” than “panacea”.
What was once an hour of reading and worksheets has exceeded most of our expectations and abilities. Did our child return it the right way? Did we check if he was “returned” for “other work?” What if I can’t find the video and we can’t complete the assignment? And if it’s my fault if my son did not return his work – not his?
In a world where parents bear the brunt of the responsibility for so much during and after a global pandemic, it wouldn’t hurt to give us a cheat sheet, so we know what we’re doing at the dinner table. kitchen every evening.
I have no idea if I’m doing anything right. What I do know is that I care and the teachers care. None of us take this lightly. I certainly do my best, but is that enough?