Real Talk for Distance Learning Families and Teachers

by Martha Fairley, Ed.S • ELCA Director, K-12 Instructional Technology

In these uncertain times, it is important that learning continues, even if it can’t happen in person. Whether you are teaching your children at home or monitoring students who are learning from home, I am sure you know by now…this is different! Schedules are different because the normal school day doesn’t exist. Student learning, feedback, and assessment, although still present, have now morphed into a virtual format. Mothers and fathers who never signed up to be co-teachers are now partnering with teachers more than ever to ensure the work at home is actually getting done. Let’s not forget that students, although taking advantage of social media, are missing the close contact of their friends and peers.

As COVID-19 continues to spread, how do we succeed in online learning and the new “everyone is home” dynamic? Here are a few pointers for families and teachers.

Establish a daily schedule
Whether you are home due to work closures or school closures (or both) it is important to establish a daily schedule. The temptation to sleep all day needs to be erased. Remember this is not a “snow day.” Life goes on during and after COVID-19. ELCA has established a daily class schedule for students and it’s important that students are up, dressed, and ready to be “in school” when the virtual bell rings. Having a dedicated time for school ensures that when school time is over, family time is protected as well as individual relaxation time.

Keep physical and mental well-being a priority
Watching the news all day long can make any of us feel stressed and out of control. Be sure to maintain as much normalcy as possible by including family activities and self-care in your daily routine. Self-care, such as healthy eating, regular exercise, and regular sleep patterns can prove to be crucial elements to healthy living during COVID-19. Exercise videos through YouTube and fitness apps like the 7 Minute Workout can help us to work up a sweat at home and stay physically fit. Relaxation and deep breathing exercises can also be found online to reduce stress and anxiety. Don’t forget to make time for hobbies or things that bring you joy like reading the Bible, listening to music, scrapbooking, journaling, or binging a great series on Netflix.

Maintain social connections
Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, social activities are a huge part of our well-being. It is hard to be physically distant from friends and family. Using technology to stay psychologically close can be a lifesaver. This includes video calls, text messages, and social media. Staying connected to your church family is of the utmost importance. Most churches have moved worship service and Bible study to an online format making it easier than ever to attend. Interactions may not happen naturally during these periods; therefore, we must be intentional about scheduling time to be in these group meetings and make time to speak with family and friends. It’s always exciting to see and hear from each other. These meeting opportunities can promote spiritual growth and discipleship, as well as relieve the stress and anxiety we experience with having to shelter in place.

A positive attitude and a flexible mindset are keys to making these digital learning days and the school-to-home transition run as smoothly as possible. Allow yourself to make mistakes and accept the fact that the entire world right now is making the same transition along with you. Online learning presents many opportunities for teachers to apply creative solutions to learn and connect with students through technology. Parents can ensure their child keeps up with the assignments and engages in the digital instruction, while maintaining a balance of healthy living and social engagement.

We will get through this by trusting God and working together! See you online! #ELCATogetherAtHome

Martha Fairley  has been at ELCA since 2006 moving from Raleigh, NC.  Martha is the Director of Technology and also serves as the Director of Online Learning and the STEM Coordinator.  Martha has a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science with a minor in Mathematics from Jackson State University,  a Master of Education degree with a concentration in Curriculum & Instruction from Seattle Pacific University, and an Education Specialist degree in Instructional Technology from Valdosta State University. Martha is a Google Level 2 Educator and a SMART Technologies Certified Trainer.  She has been teaching in Christian education for over 18 years.  Before teaching Martha was a software development manager with IBM in North Carolina & Virginia.  She has been married to her husband Ron since 1986 and they have two boys, Marcus (ELCA 2010) and Brandon (ELCA 2014).