“Remote learning is giving me new ways to connect with her learning experiences”: How RHNH staff is adjusting to our “new normal”

Here at Reaching Higher NH, we’re learning how to cope with our “new normal”: working from home, while also learning how to step in to support our kids’ remote learning. 

It’s a learning curve for all of us. With so many families in a similar situation, we thought it would be a good idea to share what’s happening in our own homes. How have our lives changed? What does life look like for us now? How have our children’s schools supported us in supporting our child? 

Today, we hear from Sarah Earle, our Storyteller. Here is her story:

This morning I went on a hunting expedition for dog poop, discarded gum, cigarette butts and other signs of human impact around our neighborhood. Tonight I’ll roleplay an assailant, and later this week, I’m told, I’ll have a minor part in a Spanish advertisement featuring a robot cat.

Katie drawing a map of the neighborhood for Next Generation Science 2 class at Concord High School. 

My daughters are 16 and almost 18, and to be honest it’s been a while since I’ve had much day-to-day involvement in their schoolwork. They’re taking classes I know little or remember little about, and they both get their work done without nagging. Plus, my own schedule has been overstuffed for the past several years.

The coronavirus-related closures have coincided with a new chapter in my family life. I’ve just joined the Reaching Higher NH team, and one of my reasons for changing careers was to have more time with my family. 

Well, I got it. 

As my family adjusts to our sharply circumscribed routines and contemplates the weeks or months ahead, I find myself reflecting on the role of parents in our older children’s school careers. 

Research shows that strong school-family connections have a positive effect on student outcomes. Such connections seem to happen more organically when kids are young and need assistance and oversight with many of their activities. Naturally, as they get older they rely less on adults, and thus, the adults who provided their scaffolding have fewer points of contact with them and with each other. 

My younger daughter, Katie, is a sophomore at Concord High School. The remote learning experience is giving me new ways to connect with her learning experiences. She doesn’t necessarily need me to accompany her on science expeditions or co-star in her Spanish video (I’m pretty sure, in fact, that particular endeavor would be better without my contributions), but since we’ve been thrown together 24 hours a day, we’re doing a lot more activities together than usual. I’ve had time to review the correspondence and resources our school district has provided: Concord administrators have created a web page where families can find everything in one place, and Katie’s teachers have come up with engaging activities that get her away from her computer screen. I’ve also had time to talk with Katie about her progress, her workload, what’s working well and what isn’t. 

My older daughter, Laura, lives in a different household 15 minutes away. The school closures haven’t changed my involvement with her academics, but they’ve caused me to evaluate the role parents play in equipping their teenagers for real life. Laura is wrestling with the loss of her senior spring and all the incumbent traditions. She’s facing the new reality with maturity and humor, and I’m as proud of that as I could be of any academic achievement. 

We all know there are big lessons to be learned during these grim times. I think there are small ones, too. When the fog of the pandemic lifts, I still want to take the time to read those school district emails I used to overlook at times, to talk with my daughters more regularly about what they’re learning, to find ways to connect with the school that’s just a half mile up the road I live on. And yes, when the call goes out for actors in Spanish advertisements, I’ll show up, too.

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