Survival Guide

When schools closed in mid-March “due to an abundance of precaution” who would have ever imagined that students would still be learning from home in October? Certainly not me.

We have been through the wringer. Each day, it feels like we have woken into a new genre of movie: science fiction one day, horror film the next, often a dark comedy, and always a bit of Spike Lee and Michael Moore in the mix.

In talking with students, families and teachers, a few themes have emerged about our collective experience of distance learning:

  • Teachers are exhausted.  Every teacher feels like a first-year teacher who must learn a whole new set of skills and tools to support their students. They are creative and resourceful, and they are feeling the weight of each lesson’s success or failure deeply.
  • Students are resilient. They are able to find the bright spots of distance learning (less social pressure, fewer distractions in the classroom) but they desperately miss their friends and the other important aspects of school that are hard to reproduce through Zoom.
  • Parents and family members are striving and struggling. They have been thrust into new roles –  teacher, hall monitor, principal – while they continue to fulfill all the other responsibilities that life requires. The era of the Super Parent is upon us: many feel as if nothing short of superhuman powers will suffice.

Most importantly, we are all uncertain how distance learning will affect long term learning, students’ sense of self, and the existing and persistent gaps in achievement between the most privileged students and those who must overcome greater barriers to success.

I am sharing a Family Survival Guide to Distance Learning, full of concrete tips and framing thoughts that I gleaned from the incredible teachers and school leaders at Gateway as well as from my experience supporting families and teachers for over 25 years.  

I hope the Family Survival Guide will be useful to you and others you know who are supporting students in distance learning. I would love for you to share it widely, and I’d also love to hear your feedback and what you are doing to thrive. 

  • Is the Family Survival Guide helpful? 
  • What tips and ideas most resonated with you?
  • What did I miss?
  • How else can I or other educators help you to support your children during this challenging time?

I can’t wait till the day we can all be safely back in classrooms and schools everywhere. I miss the joy, the goofiness, the drama, the buzz, the constant interruptions, the visible evidence of learning and growth, the challenges, the friendships and camaraderie. 

But until then, let’s support each other to make the most of distance learning for our children, for our families, and for ourselves! 


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