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Zoom School: What’s Missing

Posted on 11/09/2020, by Dr. Ellen Fithian (0 comments)


My four year old granddaughter started at a new preschool yesterday. It's a small private school in California that is able to offer in-person classes, so my husband and I were excited to hear about her first day. When we asked her what she'd done, she told us that she had learned and played and danced and drawn pictures. Her father (my son) is an assistant professor at Berkeley, so just for fun we asked him if students in his class played, danced, or drew pictures. When he answered no to all three questions, my granddaughter asked incredulously, "You mean they just learn?"

Her question got me thinking about virtual schooling - and its limitations. We all recognize that preschool is about much more than learning your ABC's. Equally important is practicing to become a good citizen of a community; figuring out when to blend in and when to stand out. We also hope preschoolers will dabble with their first friendships, exploring ways to offer support to others and to seek it. Preschool is the first step that a child makes on the path from being dependent on parents to becoming an independent person.

High school is the last step on that pathway, so it's a critical period for mastering all those preliminary preschool challenges of balancing cooperating and competing, making friends and navigating increasingly complicated social networks. Accordingly, it's a particularly inopportune time for school to be reduced to "just learning," yet for students whose school day consists of a series of Zoom lectures, that's all they're being offered.

How Can Parents Help?

In my neck of the woods, all the public high schools are fully virtual right now, but some are beginning to resume Covid-compliant versions of their activities. Jamestown High School, a school near me, has created a site within Canvas (its learning management system) for clubs and activities to post their upcoming plans. Check the website of the school your child attends for updates on its activities, but don't stop there.

Encourage your teenager to contact faculty advisers of clubs she's participated in previously - or would like to join - to ask what's happening. Better still, urge her to take some initiative in helping to get her activities up and running again in some form. Even if all the Academic Challenge team can manage right now is yet another Zoom gathering, a meeting to practice quiz bowl questions serves a different function than one in which you're listening to a lecture on chemistry.

Parents and students are overwhelmed with just getting through the workweek these days, and it's tempting to settle for binge TV watching and catnapping through Saturday and Sunday. Instead, try to summon the energy to plan some weekend activities that get everyone outside to enjoy the fall weather and engage with the world in socially distanced, responsible ways. In normal times, a good high school functions as a one-stop shop that meets the needs of teens to learn, play sports, perform, socialize, and grow up, but now that its function has been temporarily reduced to just learning, it's vital that parents find ways to meet those other needs.

Best of luck to all of you in these trying times. I hope that one day soon, Zoom schooling will seem like a weird dream that we are relieved to have awakened from. 
 

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Posted on 11/09/2020, by Dr. Ellen Fithian (0 comments) « Previous Entry

 

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