When Pandemic Teaching and Parenting Collide (aka, Thank Your Teachers)

by Sami

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Have you ever stopped to consider what happens when pandemic teaching and parenting collide? I find myself in the unique position of both teaching in a pandemic and parenting during quarantine.

And I’m here to tell you: it isn’t pretty.

When Pandemic Teaching and Parenting Collide

I’ve been teaching in higher education for over half of my life. (Because I graduated so young, I was actually younger than many of the undergrads I taught!).

But nothing could have prepared me for what I’m experiencing as a teacher and a parent this semester.

Something interesting happens when the level at which you teach collides with the stage of parenting you’re in.

Strict Teaching in Higher Education

I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve always been a strict teacher for several reasons: first of all to be fair, second of all because of the lack of age gap and finally, because you can always loosen up your classroom, but it’s harder to tighten up if you don’t first start that way.

I’ve also always enjoyed teaching at the college level because there is a difference in teaching young adults out of their parents’ home as compared to the alternative. But now I’m in a conundrum. I’m teaching my college-level course to high-school seniors in the midst of a pandemic while parenting two high school students in the midst of a pandemic.

I’ve been tasked with readying these minds to perform certain tasks in the workforce once they leave home, yet most of them are sitting in their homes with their parents listening to me.
And they’re tired. And they’re burned out. And they’re stressed.

I know because I see it in my own kids.

How can I be hard on my own students when I expect my kids’ teachers to have an unusual amount of grace with them?

Finding New Ways to Teach Online

So here I sit, teaching a primarily online class like I’ve been doing for years, yet having to come up with entirely new ways to do it.
I’m torn between academic standards and parental compassion.
I’m burdened with carrying my kids’ emotions mixed with my own.
I’m emotional for no reason and every reason.

I have no glorious answer, no simple solution to this ongoing and complex situation.
But I do have eyes and ears and I do see each of you.

I See You…

I see you, teachers, for all you are having to handle and create. For how you’re having to pivot. I see all the emails you’re tasked with answering from parents, students, and administrators. I see all the new technology you’re having to learn, navigate and troubleshoot. And I see you doing all this while many of you are parents and grandparents yourselves, trying not to neglect your own children or shortchange your students.

I see you, parents – especially the working parents. Let’s be real, every parent is a working parent on one level or another. But the daily choice of going to work or helping our kids is one no parent should have to make. The guilt has become unbearable on some days. The need to provide vs. the command to love our children well. An impossible choice, no doubt. And yet we have been living in and making the choice day in and day out for almost a year.

Finally, I see you, students. I weep for you regularly. Tears streamed down my face on the first day of this semester as I looked in the face of high school seniors who won’t get to live out the dreams of their senior year. What might seem trivial to us now as adults – prom, state championships, signing day, graduation parties – are the only things that have been pulling some of these kids through their senior year.

Even things as simple as sleepovers and hanging out at the mall have gone by the wayside. I’m not saying we owe these kids all the song and dance reminiscent of “High School Musical”, but we can acknowledge the very real loss this plays in their lives and the emotional effect of that absence.

Say Thank You, Be Kind, Ask For Help

If your child is in school, virtually or physically, take time to reach out to their teacher with something other than a need. Email them a thank you. Text them a Starbucks gift card. Call their administrator and pay them a compliment.

If you homeschool, be kind to yourself. Find ways to make time for yourself as a woman and not just as a parent or teacher. Ask for help. Lock the bathroom door (you know it’s been years since you have!).

And if you are a teacher on any level. Thank you. College didn’t prepare us for this. Student teaching could never have anticipated what we’re experiencing right now. Even those of us who have pioneered this virtual, online classroom had no idea the toll it would take on our daily lives.

It Will All Get Done, Just Not Like You Thought

So just stop. Breathe. Be kind to yourselves and others. It will all get done, just perhaps not in the way we imagined.

Remember, it doesn’t all rest on your shoulders. Society has struggled before and overcame, and so shall we. God’s shoulders are bigger than ours and our hearts come from him.

Reach out with an open hand rather than raging with a closed fist. This too shall pass and maybe, just maybe, we will all learn something from each other rather than expecting one lesson from a single individual.

More Pandemic Parenting Resources

My goal here is to always point you to people smarter and more experienced than myself. As I strive to bring you more resources, I welcome anything you’ve found, read or used that has helped you as a teacher or as a parent during the quarantine (& before).

You may want to watch my interview from The Sami Cone Show with Rachel Martin on How to Parent in a Pandemic and the Brave Art of Motherhood (listen to her “Fearless in her 40’s” episode on my Generation Wisdom podcast.)

I also compiled a list of over 70 things for teens to do while stuck at home.

You also can watch me express my emotions and concerns in this video from my Daily Dash:

(I like to say my Daily Dash videos – which I typically film every day from my car – is “everything you need to know from around the world and in my life, straight from my car dashboard to yours.” Typically they last about 3 minutes; today’s obviously ran longer!).

And if you also have teenagers, check out my Guide to Teens or my book Raising Uncommon Kids.

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