My son and I struggled so much during remote learning I have to put our health in danger. I don’t write that line lightly. Allow me to explain.
This school year I am working remotely and my kids ages 10, 8, and 6 had the option to stay home or go to school. My wife and I made the decision to keep them home because we know schools are petri dishes for airborne diseases. This is not a knock on schools just how things are. So we decided that I would keep the kids home and my wife would go to work.
Now on to my son who is 10 years old. He has ADHD or ADD hyperactivity depending on how current you want to be. This impacts his executive functioning. That means that he struggles with the cognitive skills that help plan, prioritize, and execute complex tasks. Take that information about the executive functioning of ADHD and think about how remote learning works. You have to follow schedules, navigate between Google Classrooms, check due dates, have your materials ordered in a way that you can access them quickly. Guess what that falls under. Executive functioning.
Knowing that he was gonna struggle, we met with his teachers and tried to get them to understand what they were up against. We consulted an ADHD expert for advice. We bought a watch that sets timers, gave him a desk area, printed his schedule every morning, moved his desk so it faced me and I could see what he was doing at all times. If you thought about it we tried it.
Sure enough, the struggles ensued. We met with his teachers again, talked with him, set new procedures for him to follow. Nothing worked. He was reading books during lessons, downloading games, not showing up to meetings, and not getting his work done.
I have ADHD as well. This means that we were both struggling with our schedules and how one day never looked like the next. I wasn’t doing a great job of supporting him.
Honestly, I was not super worried about his academic progress. He reads extremely well and is proficient in math. Here’s why I sent him back into danger. Our relationship was becoming negative. I was becoming an education warden. Every statement was about how he wasn’t doing what he was supposed to. My questions all centered around whether he was in the right meeting. The positive interactions were becoming extinct.
We know as educators that we are supposed to say 5 positive things for every 1 negative thing. That goes for typical children. Children with ADHD may suffer from rejection sensitivity disorder.
“Individuals who have this condition respond extremely negatively to the perception of being rejected: It goes far beyond the run-of-the-mill discomfort that most of us experience.”
I did not want to have our relationship fractured to a point that there was no coming back. That coupled with the work not being done was enough to push us to send him back to school.
I realize the privilege I have in keeping him home and that some people had to send their kids in without even knowing how safe the schools were. That is not the point of this. The point is that some students are going to struggle even with supports being implemented and a fantastic home and school connection. Remote learning just doesn’t work well for some kids no matter how hard we try.
This is not to say that it doesn’t work for anyone, nor am I saying that remote learning shouldn’t be used if the school shuts down for snow or pandemic. What I am saying is that if you don’t understand that remote learning doesn’t work well for all students you are going to cause a lot of damage to your relationship with them, their guardians, and yourself.
Give your students some grace. Still call home and try to get the students involved. Just remember that not every student is going to thrive in this environment. Don’t judge the parent who is working and can’t provide support. Don’t write it off as the kid not wanting to be there and do the work. Learn about the family. Keep asking how can I support the student and their family. Send positive notes when something heck anything is done. Check-in on the student and just say hi with no other motive than to keep a positive relationship going.
When all this clears if we are not careful we are going to have even more jaded parents and students who will have a negative association with school.