I’m a social psychologist. I’m a communications manager. I’m the mother of a 13-year-old student. And, currently, I find myself in the role of a substitute teacher as I work from home. Ten days ago, Swiss schools were shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. With kids now staying home, parents are being asked to support them in their learning. Wow, I thought, what a great opportunity to reactivate what I learned in school and enter into an exciting learning relationship with my son.
“Seriously, Mom?” my son asked. “You’re not a teacher.” Good point, but never mind. I was undaunted. Hadn’t my son’s school sent students and parents an encouraging email, urging them to keep calm and engage in distance learning?
“What a great opportunity to reactivate what I learned in school and enter into an exciting learning relationship with my son!”
At any rate, my son had already received the first emails from his teachers telling him what he should work on during week one at home. These were very exciting tasks indeed. History: Write down your thoughts about the significance of the first Greek colonies, the Ionian settlements. Math: Review fractions, set theory and exponents. English: Write a short essay on the advantages and disadvantages of distance learning.
I reminded my son that it is important to be well organized and set up a schedule for the tasks to be completed. So which ones did he want to do first? “That’s for me to decide,” my son said. Very well, point taken. I don’t want to be a helicopter parent. I don’t want to be annoying. More emails from my son’s teachers kept coming in, with more exciting tasks.
Was my son still on top of it? I cautiously asked him whether he would like to talk about the work he was doing. I’m not an expert on facial expressions, but I managed to understand my son’s non-verbal response: absolutely not. Good, I thought, it looks like everything is on track. I stayed calm and kept my distance. By the end of the first week of distance learning, I reached out to my son again. How was it going? Would he like to share some results?
“I never would have thought I would miss school, but I do.”
My son showed me his essay on distance learning. I started reading, and was pleased with the structure of the text, interesting introduction, elaborate paragraph on the advantages of distance learning (“after lunch break I can do some gardening in our backyard”) and a thoughtful second paragraph on the disadvantages (“I miss my friends, and my mother is pretending she’s a teacher and getting on my nerves”). But what most struck me was his conclusion: “I never would have thought I would miss school, but I do. Isn’t that crazy?”