When parents become teachers – or teachers’ helpers
Education is taking on a whole new meaning for many parents, as COVID-19 restrictions have meant learning remotely until the pandemic subsides.
SHA parents, like so many others, are learning to guide their children as they log into classrooms online every morning and keep at it, with a few breaks, until mid-afternoon. The system has no end in sight as the infection rates of the global pandemic are on the rise.
For many at home, the situation has proven stressful.
At Robinson Gardens, Ivette Fernandez helps her two sons, ages 11 and 8, as they sit nearby but in separate workspaces. Both attend Sabis International Charter School, but are on different schedules due to Hancel being in middle school and Alberto in elementary.
“I have a desk for each of them, with their computers, books, whiteboards, pencils and paper, everything they need,” she said. “They both face the walls so they can listen to the teacher and focus on what they need to do.
“It’s challenging for all of us though,” she admitted.
“I don’t think they’re learning as much, and I help them as much as I can. One of my sons needs more one on one, so I’m helping him a lot. All day long I’m sitting in the living room. It gets to a point where it feels like it’s too much. I feel like I’m back in school,” she said.
When Fernandez has her own appointments that must be done in person, she brings the boys with her, sets up a hotspot in her car and has them continue their lessons there until she is done.
Octavia Jones, a mother of three, was forced to sacrifice her job so she could help her two school-aged children, Jalil, who is 11 and in grade 6 at Veritas Charter School, and Janoah, who is 8 and a third grader at Dorman Elementary School.
“It’s an everyday battle,” Jones said. “They’re not used to being in front of a computer all day. They don’t watch TV or play video games. So it’s hard for all of us. I’m going by their schedule.”
“It’s not as easy as people might think,” she added.
Jones has reached out frequently to SHA’s Talk/Read/Succeed! Outreach Coordinator Lynne Cimino, who helps with computer glitches and provides a good ear for listening when things get rough.
Cimino said parents at Robinson Gardens have expressed a variety of issues with regards to remote learning, including the challenge of working with more than one child at once, helping younger children with computer issues, finding working spaces for children, and the lack of personal time. Many parents, she said, said their food budgets are strained as their children eat all meals and snacks at home.
“This is a difficult time for many of our parents,” Cimino noted.
At Sullivan Apartments, Yomari Smith set up a remote learning spot in the kitchen for her daughter, Joeliani Roche. Smith said that the process has worked out well so far.
“It helps a lot that she has her teacher right there on her laptop, if she has any questions or is having any trouble with the material,” Smith said. “At times it’s a struggle for her, but mostly she’s adjusted and she’s doing fine.”
Joeliani is 10 and a fourth grader at Boland Elementary School. She misses one thing the most.
“I miss seeing my teachers and my friends, and the people I used to see every day,” she said.
Joeliani also misses the regular contact with T/R/S! Outreach Coordinator Zenaida Burgos, who oversees family activities and programs at Sullivan. Due to the pandemic, programs are done remotely, and get-togethers have been limited to small numbers of people at a time, often outdoors or at the door of the Community Center.
“We’re doing the best we can to work with our families under the circumstances,” Burgos said. “We’re keeping the connections and reaching out continually to our families.”
Said Joeliani, “I miss Zenaida and I miss coming to the center with my friends.”
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