Phi Mus across the country have recently found themselves thrust into facilitating e-learning for their dependents at home. We reached out to some Phi Mu educators to get their tips for navigating these challenging times and asked them how they’re adjusting to this new reality.
Christi Morel, Delta Tau (Western Kentucky University), is a 19-year veteran elementary school teacher currently teaching second grade in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Now, she is also managing e-learning for her students and her own two children.
Morgan Wilhelm, Kappa Lambda (University of Memphis), teachers 5th grade English Language Arts and Social Studies in rural Shelbyville, Tennessee; she has been a teacher for eight years.
Amy Daugherty, Kappa Lambda (University of Memphis), teaches K-5 gifted students and oversees 6th-8th grade gifted education in suburban Memphis. She taught middle school English Language Arts for 19 years and currently focuses on STEM activities, including consulting with high schools to meet the needs of their gifted learners.
E-Learning and Remote Learning Tips
1. Resist the urge to replicate the traditional school day.
Both Amy and Morgan encouraged parents to look at different homeschooling models, most of which do not involve multiple hours of learning each day. Christi said, “Work like this should only take an hour or two at the most [for elementary school kids] so don’t push it more than that … and don’t stress if you don’t get it done in that time frame!”
2. Give breaks, often.
Christi said, “We are transitioning every 30 minutes in the classroom on a daily basis so I suggest breaks that include fun videos on GoNoodle, dancing to a few of your favorite songs, running a few laps around the house or watching a yoga video on YouTube.”
3. Find a balance between screen time and non-screen time.
With her own kids, Christi starts each day with online work, then her kids take a break to read a few chapters in their books or do some paper/pencil work, then they can have some screen time.
4. Make a schedule.
Christi and her family discuss their schedule every morning so everyone knows their day will bring. This creates a sense of calm and everyone works better when they know what is expected. Amy suggests setting a flexible schedule and paying attention to your student’s stressors so you can adjust the schedule as needed. Christi’s biggest suggestion was to find a schedule that works for your family, even if that means completing school work after dinner rather than first thing in the morning, if that’s easier for you.
5. Get your kids involved in the planning.
Amy suggested talking with your kids about what they want to work on and let them be part of the planning. “I’d also encourage students to find something they are interested in learning more about and have them research it in depth or explore a new genre of reading,” she said.
6. Play! Get outside when possible!
Amy said, “It’s amazing the learning that can take place during ‘free’ time” so give kids ample time for unstructured play. Never underestimate the value of getting some fresh air!”
7. Assign chores and self-care skills.
Both Amy and Morgan recommend assigning some daily chores, especially teaching older children some self-care skills like laundry, running the dishwasher, simple car maintenance, etc. Amy added, “As a Phi Mu volunteer and former higher education employee, I have always been shocked by the number of students who lack basic self-care skills before starting college.”
Take advantage of online learning sites, many of which are free right now! Some favorites include:
Additional Online Adventures
Many museums and zoos are hosting daily virtual field trips on their Facebook pages or websites. Christi and her kids have been watching the Cincinnati Zoo’s sessions, which spotlight a different zoo animal each weekday at 3 p.m. EDT.
It’s an Adjustment for Everyone
Just like students have had to adapt to the sudden e-learning/remote learning model, teachers have also had to adjust. Regardless of the grade or subject, teachers miss their students and many never had the opportunity to tell their students goodbye before the pandemic forced the closure of their schools.
Working in a rural school district, Morgan does not have the infrastructure in place to maintain regular contact with her students. Christi utilizes FaceTime, ClassDojo and Zoom to communicate with her students but finds it hard to explain her expectations without being face-to-face. Amy also misses the direct interaction with her students. “I am missing the ability to reassure and encourage them face to face. I am missing the opportunity to help my 5th graders prepare for middle school, my 8th graders to prepare for high school, and my seniors to enjoy all the lasts before they venture on to what is next for them.”
As Phi Mu families across the country navigate this new reality, our Phi Mu educators have some final words of advice:
Amy encouraged parents to remember that “your kids know how to push your buttons more than anyone else. Above all else, they need you to be the parent, the voice of reason and authority.” She added, “They might fight against that at first, but often that is what they love most about their teachers … the safety of knowing the teacher is in charge and the reassurance that they will be loved and respected and that they should also show that to others.”
Christi offered this encouragement, “Don’t stress about the first few days not going like you had hoped … our first day of school work was a fail and I have two teaching degrees! Just don’t give up!”