Updated: Sep 16, 2021
By J. Shanay
A warm smile and positive energy describe J. Shanay, the pseudonym for a young mother, author, and public figure whose motto is “Today and every day remember to #Love yourself even if others don't show you that love." Whether in front of the camera, ripping the runway, or typing her next book on her laptop, J. Shanay encourages people to follow their passion. She is the author of Charmed by the Best series (part 1 and 2),
One reality parents faced is that this school year was different than any previous educational years. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, many parents adopted new roles as masses of students participated in virtual learning for the 2020-2021 school year. Parents acted as teachers, cafeteria workers, coaches, and even school administrators. These added roles presented additional pressures as many parents had to balance working at home and supporting the children in this new version of learning. It is not hard to imagine that many parents are felt overwhelmed and had anxiety about facilitating virtual learning from home.
As a former teacher with three teaching certificates, I am not ashamed to say that I still feel a little mix of angst and anxiety with the thought of my new role during the virtual learning atmosphere. When my son’s school district first asked parents to choose between campus-based instruction and online learning, I felt as if I were deciding in the blind. If he goes to school, will he be safe? What will virtual learning look like for him? What will online learning require of me as a parent? How will my child adjust to schooling during the pandemic? These were just some of the questions that other parents and I asked ourselves at our neighborhood park. The impact these types of changes would have on my child and my household would be unknown in considering the best of two difficult choices. I had to dive further into virtual learning and screen time, voids in student socialization, working at home with children who have special needs, and the impact the exemption of enrichment and extracurricular activities have on children.
For years parents have been told to limit their child's screen time because too much screen time was unhealthy for development. Research posits that excessive screen time may lower academic performance (Radcliffe, 2018). Now, as we try to adapt to this new normal in virtual learning, students may be online for up to seven hours during the school day. Could this adaptation hurt more than it helps?
Research also reveals that increased screen time correlates with obesity and trouble sleeping (Radcliffe, 2018). .In the current climate of our public health crisis, parents may be choosing their children’s immediate health by keeping their children at home away from potential carriers of Covid-19. However, could we as parents potentially be putting other aspects of their children’s health at risk? Additionally, the bold reality is that the school day screen time is unlikely to change the fact that children and teens will still desire unstructured screen time after school. Television, gaming, social media, and so forth will still be good outlets for youth and adolescents, but will they now have to forgo their enjoyable screen time for the sake of our new reality?
The school environment has always been a place for education and socialization. The socialization process starts in preschool but is an integral part of schooling throughout. Furthermore, the theory of social learning postulates that behavior is learned through the observation of others (Campbell, 2020). This process has primarily been a missing piece of education with virtual learning. With virtual learning, students missed opportunities for center and workstation time, lunchtime, recess, etc. Therefore, parents are not peers and therefore cannot replace the peer socialization involved in the campus-based times of the past. Even for those students who are attending school, the expectation of social distance also presents barriers to typical socialization. As parents, the big question is, “what is the best way for us to help our children adapt to these social changes”?
In 2018, in the United States, 13.7% of students ages 3-21 were identified as special education (Wolfman-Arent, 2020). One of the issues the parents of these students face is how to best help their child with special needs be successful in a virtual learning atmosphere. One of my teaching certificates is in Early Childhood through secondary special education. Therefore, I am aware of how much goes into being a proficient special education teacher, and most parents are not equipped with the knowledge and skills to do so. Our government supports No Child Left Behind; however, with these changes in our new COVID society, it may be difficult not to leave only children but parents behind as well.
Even during the pandemic, most educational agencies continued to call for school districts to make reasonable efforts to provide services outlined in the student Individualized Education Plan. The harsh truth for many parents is that there is not a virtual program designed to replace the types of services students were receiving when campus-based school attendance was required. Adaptations with programs and services may be a new reality, but while our society tries to catch up with the changes brought on in the current pandemic, the question is how parents should move forward. Parents in these predicaments should reminder is that they have rights and that they are their child's best advocate for getting the services their children deserve despite the new concept of virtual learning.
As a child growing up, one of my favorite school aspects was ancillary or enrichment classes. These classes included music, physical education, art, and on the secondary level, these courses include home economics, robotics, ROTC, and athletics. These aspects of education influence and complement the multiple intelligence of our students. How successful were these courses taught virtually? Parents may not have the skill sets, equipment, and supplies to support these aspects of education.
Considering all these aspects of learning, it appears that parents still have more questions than answers as the school year comes to an end. Hopefully, as society continues to adapt, school districts and administrators will plan for the upcoming school with a more straightforward direction for establishing a ‘new normal’ post-coronavirus. One nugget takeaway is that parents will have to fully invest and become active participants in their children’s education now more than ever before.
Campbell, L. (2020, April 3). How Covid-19 could affect kids' long-term social development. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/social-distancing-effects-on-social-development
Radcliffe, S. (2018, December 19). Is screen time altering the brains of children? Healthline Parenthood. Retrieved from: http://www.healthline.com/health-news/hiw-does-screen-time-affect-kids-brains
Wolfman-Arent, A. (2020, April 20). Special education during the coronavirus: What should parents tolerate, demand? Retrieved from: https://whyy.org/articles/special-education-during-coronavirus-what-should-parents-tolerate-demand/