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Headteacher’s advice to stressed out parents: Don’t try to be a teacher

PUBLISHED: 15:56 27 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:57 27 March 2020

Parents are facing children doing school work at home duringt he coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Parents are facing children doing school work at home duringt he coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

With schools closed and children forced to learn at home parents may well be feeling stressed,overwhelmed and under pressure.

Headtecher tips include not being overwhelmed by the amount of school work sent on home for children during the coroinavirus lockdown. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA WireHeadtecher tips include not being overwhelmed by the amount of school work sent on home for children during the coroinavirus lockdown. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Dealing with cooped up kids and the work being sent home for your children from school it is easy to be frazzled.

At the end of the first week of schools being closed, here are some tips and sensible advice from a headteacher to put it in perspective:

Former Norwich Notre Dame High School pupil Myleene Klass is offering online piano lessons as one of the fun ways to learn during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Ian West/PA WireFormer Norwich Notre Dame High School pupil Myleene Klass is offering online piano lessons as one of the fun ways to learn during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Ian West/PA Wire

Firstly this is not homeschooling. This is an unprecedented emergency situation. Homeschooling is a choice, where you consider, you plan for it and you are your child’s school teacher in whatever form you choose. This is, at best, distance learning. In reality, it’s everyone trying to separate their bums from their elbows, because none of us know what we’re doing and what’s right and wrong.

Remember you are, and always have been, your child’s primary educator. If you decide that your child isn’t going to engage with anything sent home and is going to spend the entire period playing or watching TV, then that is your choice. That is your right. There is nothing to stress or feel guilty about.

Mia and Jack watch as Chester Zoo host a live tour of its facilities to entertain children and families in isolation due to the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Ian West/PA WireMia and Jack watch as Chester Zoo host a live tour of its facilities to entertain children and families in isolation due to the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Ian West/PA Wire

Schools don’t know what they’re doing either. They had no notice, no preparation time and we were NOT told to ‘continue to plan lessons as normal and just send them home’ – that’s NOT possible. If it were, we’d all be out of a job!

It is absolutely not possible to facilitate distance learning with a primary aged child and work from home at the same time. If you’re trying to do that, stop now. You can certainly have activities where your child learns, but your focus is your job, and survival. Again, unprecedented. Stop trying to be superheroes.

Q&A

My school has sent home lots of physical work. Pages and pages, hours and hours. How am I supposed to get through it all?

You’re not, don’t try. Your child’s teacher spent a couple of hours in utter panic gathering things to send home so they could say they did their best and there wasn’t a lot of complaints that enough didn’t go home. It’s not a competition, or a race, it’s unlikely the teacher will even manage to look at it all.

My school keeps sending home links and emails with more work. How do I make it stop?

See above. These are suggestions and ideas because the school is worried they’re not offering enough. Use them if they suit you, don’t if they don’t suit. If you’re getting stressed, stop opening the emails. No one will know!

Someone in my child’s class has everything done and we’ve barely started. Will they fall behind?

Even if everything were equal in terms of support, time and number of children (which it’s not) all children learn at different rates. In the class there’s a wide range of levels in all subjects, there’s different paces and there are many children working on differentiated levels of work. It’s almost impossible for teachers to differentiate at the moment, so you don’t have to do it either. Your child will not fall behind. This is all revision and reminder work. If children could all learn new concepts without specific teaching, we wouldn’t need teachers. They will cover all of this again, multiple times.

I’m not doing any work with my kids. All they’re doing is building Lego, cooking and playing outside. Is that wrong?

All of this is learning -very valuable learning. Give yourself and them a break.

How can I get three different lots of work done with three different kids of different ages?

You can’t, stop trying. If they’re old enough, try to get them to do little bits independently. Otherwise try to do something they can all engage with, reading a story together, some free writing, baking etc.

So what’s the bare minimum you’d expect?

For me, survival mode. I won’t pretend that may be true of all teachers, but you know what?, if they can’t have perspective in a time like this then I wouldn’t overly worry about their opinion anyway.

What’s ideal for children?

A bit of reading every day (independent or to them or via audiobook etc). Some free writing now and then. If they’ll keep a diary or something, great. If not, would they draw a comic? Practical hands on maths. Be that via cooking, cleaning, outside or some maths games, physical or digital. Some fine motor work. Lego, cutting, playdough, tidying up small toys. Physical exercise every day. Some art/music where possible through the week.


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