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The things I’m reminding myself as my teen begins remote learning

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My daughter’s school officially begins remote learning this week, and even though I am a high school librarian, I have to admit that I’m feeling anxious at the prospect of it. My daughter and I have a delicate balance designed for when school is normal. I ask questions about her day and she does or doesn’t respond with varying degrees of civility. We all know that even on the best of days, life with a teenager can be like walking on eggshells, and we also know that these aren’t the best of days.

For my daughter, as for most high school kids, her school day is an intensely private and personal experience. Now the drama and the stress and the worry of a teenager’s typical school day is going to be played out at home with parents and siblings within hearing distance of it all. When my daughter and I discussed where in the house she would do her remote school day, she calmly replied that she would do remote school in her room, just like she did her homework. I pointed out that digital school will include live screen time, meaning her classmates will all see each other on their screens – did she really want her entire math class, for example, in her bedroom? She responded that her bedroom will give her the most privacy. She doesn’t want the entire family overhearing her classes, and I understand that. I think her need for privacy and autonomy is the most important consideration right now.

As a parent, I must treat her school day as her school day. That means not peeking over her shoulder “just to see” what her teachers are like, not quietly being in the area so that I can overhear something, and most definitely, not inserting myself into the end of a digital class time to say hi to the teacher or to ask a question. A good rule of thumb is that if I wouldn’t do it in person, I shouldn’t do it digitally.

One thing that I find helpful is to remind myself that we are not suddenly homeschooling. She still has teachers who have a curriculum to teach and who have been spending a lot of time and energy on this transition to remote learning. While I concede that parents of little ones will need to be hands-on for their children’s digital school day, parents of older kids have a different responsibility. For us, the task is to remember that our teens remain the ones responsible for their own learning and responsible for their own outcomes. The fact that school is happening over a computer in our home rather than the school building doesn’t change that fact.

Even so, I am positive that there will be a time when my daughter will look at me and say that she has no idea what’s going on. When that happens, I should not rush in – o r panic because I can’t rush in. (Honors Chemistry, I’m looking at you.) Just because the school day is happening at home, I shouldn’t feel the need to take over and try to fix it. My daughter still has teachers, and this hasn’t changed simply because the teaching is happening remotely. My job can be to help her by talking through a problem, or helping to craft an email to a teacher. These are the same things I would do if school was happening in the school building.

I’m anxious about all of the things that could happen over the next weeks and months, and when I’m anxious, I want to control as many things around me as possible. My teenager is anxious, too. School, the single biggest part of her life, is completely different in a way we did not anticipate as recently as a few weeks ago. Right now, she needs to have some control over her education and her life. She needs me to remember that she is a competent young woman and the fact that school is going digital for a while doesn’t change that. I’m honestly not looking forward to this experience. I am optimistic, though, that at the end of it, we will have a sense of accomplishment that we persevered and handled a difficult situation with dignity and respect.

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Maureen Paschal is a freelance writer, a tutor, a teacher-librarian, and a mom of four almost grown kids. She blogs at Raising The Capable Student where her goal is helping parents to keep family life a priority and school success in perspective. Her work has been featured in On Parenting from the Washington Post, Grown and Flown, Perfection Pending, and Today Parents.


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