Remote Learning has been in effect for about a little over a month now, depending on what state you are in. At Dyknow, we have prioritized having conversations with educators in our network to understand the biggest challenges, needs, and wants during this time of transitioning to remote teaching. 

One of the most frequent topics mentioned during these conversations is something that resonates with anyone working from home, regardless of what industry you are in:

Balancing the roles of being a parent and a professional.

We recently sat down with Erika Rodriguez, Science Teacher at Klein ISD in Houston, to talk about how to balance and prioritize time as a parent and teacher during this period of remote learning due to COVID-19.

What does the remote teaching role look like?

Erika explained that her role as a teacher has shifted quite a bit since transitioning to a remote teaching role amidst e-Learning. Prior to COVID-19, Erika’s role would shift between facilitator in the classroom with students having more autonomy over projects during class, and being the “sage on the stage” (as she puts it) serving as presenter of information. 

Now, in the wake of remote learning, Erika functions as a full-time remote teacher and facilitator. She explained that she holds office hours daily to engage with students, but other than that students are completing learning activities on their own. Of course, she is there when students have questions or need clarification, but she now enables her students to consume material on their own, putting her “sage on the stage” persona in the backseat and letting her remote teaching persona drive.

Remote teaching changes are not without their challenges…

She explained that there are significant challenges and gaps in teaching now that really can’t be facilitated in a remote setting. Erika shared that from a student engagement perspective, she misses being able to give her students a high five or fist bump at the beginning of class and engaging students with an event at the beginning of each class period.

Erika also shared that she is spending more time on her computer now than ever before, which has its own challenges. However, she has leaned significantly on technology to drive and increase student engagement during this shift to remote teaching.

Using technology to combat the challenges of remote teaching…

To make up for the lost engagement at the beginning of class, Erika has been leaning on the technology that she already has available to still use these events to start the day. Each morning she uses Screencastify to create a random event that students can complete for the day. One example she shared was a “helping hand” event where students would help with a chore or activity around the house to get points for that day’s event. 

How has this affected the parenting role?

Erika is a mother of three, with one middle school and two high school-aged children. Balancing the roles of parent and professional is a challenge for anyone, but adding remote learning both for your students and your own children to the mix can be an extra challenge.

Starting out, Erika shared that the transition was pretty difficult. Her family had to sit down and create a plan with expectations as to what their days would look like in terms of waking up, getting school work done, and creating boundaries between “work-life” and “home-life.” With more people working from the same house now, Erika explained that she has created a makeshift office for herself so that she and her family have a physical distinction between when she is in her remote teaching role and when she is in her parenting role. 

The biggest piece of advice for balancing time as a parent and a remote teacher during COVID-19?

Communication. It’s become obvious that good communication is key to success during this time of remote learning. Erika shared that it’s critical to communicate with the people you live with to set expectations and boundaries, and also to communicate with your colleagues frequently to check-in, and make sure they know when you will be in your remote teaching role, and when you are off the clock. 

Regardless of whether you are balancing a remote teaching role and parenting, or just trying to adjust to a remote teaching role, Erika’s biggest piece of advice is to take a step back. Take it slow, take care of yourself, and focus on the slow and steady. Taking a step back to take care of yourself physically and emotionally during this time is crucial and should come before anything else. It’s hard to get caught up in the day-to-day, but we will all come out of this stronger and better. 

Listen to our full conversation with Erika Rodriguez

On this episode of Tackling Tech Podcast, powered by Dyknow, Brett McGrath talks with Erika Rodriguez, a middle school science teacher at Klein ISD in Houston. Erika shares how her life has changed since the quarantine started and how her district is supporting their teachers and ensuring students are continuing their education.

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