The Adventures Of Fatherhood – December 11, 2020

The truth is nobody knows the impact this prolonged period of virtual learning will ultimately have on our kids.

Aside from teaching them the importance of being resilient and making the best of an unfortunate situation, there are no positives to come from learning remotely. Some would argue it limits the spread of the virus, but I continue to maintain the sweeping mental health consequences of this pandemic on our children far outweigh the consequences of contracting it.

My 11-year-old son was among the many school kids who took tests this week just to gauge where he is on subject matter. The results are going to be obvious – a great majority are behind. There is no question about that because at-home learning is not as successful as in-school. It’s just the way it is. The tests this week were being administered to give teachers a thorough idea of where they need to focus their efforts in the near future. I’m sure it will be helpful for the teachers, but it was not a productive period for our special needs son.

When I talk about the dangers of virtual learning, I admit our difficulties are unique because of our kid’s disabilities. Carson is incredibly limited in what he can do through the computer. I realize for some students the challenges are not as grave, but I know full well this is not good for him. His school understands as he has been in the first wave of students welcomed back under their plans for the fall and this winter. We appreciate that.

What I have gained throughout this virtual learning madness is a newfound respect and appreciation for our educators. It’s clear the teachers are working long hours to convert their lesson plans into something that will work online. From what I see, the teachers are doing the best they can to connect with the kids. They are heroes in my book and I feel for them. There must be serious frustrations on their end.

In some cases, teachers are seeing only a fraction of their students in their scheduled periods. I have heard stories of teachers calling a student’s home dozens of times trying to reach a parent because the kid is not participating in school classes. Some teachers have even gone to their students’ homes to check in because they have not seen them online.

Some teachers, especially those who teach specials, are seeing only a few students in their periods when there should be more than 15. It must be discouraging. I believe they want to see their students and are frustrated when their kids are not available to learn for whatever reason.

For the parents, especially those of younger less independent children, this extended period of home schooling is the challenge of a lifetime. There are so many concerns, including how to work while assisting kids with virtual learning. In some cases, a parent is either not working after being laid off due to the pandemic’s real economic consequences. Even if the economy’s hardships didn’t cost a parent his or her job, the responsibility of having to be home all the time prevents any sort of steady work for many. The blessed folks have jobs that allow them to work from home in a limited capacity.

Wearing the dual hats of parent and teacher is impossible. My wife handles the juggle with as much aplomb as anyone I could imagine. Carson, a fifth grader, has been virtual for about a month now after starting the school year at home for three weeks before returning to in-person instruction for about seven weeks. It’s a roller coaster ride for everyone.

This week, we were dealt a curve ball when Beckett, 12, had to go virtual because he was deemed a close contact of a soccer teammate who tested positive. Our seventh grader now must quarantine for 10 days and will be remote learning during that time. Fortunately, he can manage his school’s virtual learning options well and does not require a lot from Pam. Even in this short period of home learning, it’s clear there are consequences for our oldest kid. It’s just not the way to learn and the social consequences of not being able to connect with teachers and fellow students is immense.

As for Carson, who requires a one-on-one educational assistant in school, Pam is there to serve his needs. I give her a little breather by handling the duties on Fridays, but she’s the MVP of the house right now. She has paused her career and important things she needs to tend to daily to help our kid.

Admittedly, our challenges we face through virtual learning are complex and insurmountable. He can’t learn through a computer screen as well as in person, though we are blessed because he’s a hard worker. He has always had a commendable work ethic. However, it’s heart breaking to see him struggle to keep up with the lesson at times because the teacher can’t see their students to ensure they get what’s being taught.

All the teachers, parents and kids can do during this difficult time is pivot and adjust to the times. In the meantime, we all deserve a pat on the back for making lemonade out of lemons each day.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.