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Online learning puts new pressures on parents

Sunday, August 30, 2020

While students adapted to online learning in the spring, many parents tried and struggled with the new role of keeping their kids on task and up to date with their education.

San Marcos Consolidated ISD has made efforts to learn from shortcomings of online instruction in the spring, by providing personal devices and faster WiFi hotspots to all students who need them as well as offering the option of learning in person later in the school year. The first four weeks remain online.

Some parents struggled so much with keeping their kids on task that the risk of contracting COVID-19 isn’t much of a factor when considering sending their kids back to school in person.

“I’m just not equipped to be as patient as a teacher is,” said Cristina Cervantez, mother to a third-grader who is feeling the pressure of online learning. “It was very difficult to keep her on schedule and get her to do what she needed to do on her Zoom meetings. I wasn’t very good with that and I know this school year will be the same way.”

For Cervantez, it’s not an option for her child to continue to learn at home unless someone is home monitoring her. Cervantez works full time as a dental assistant and her son has to handle his own school work as a high school freshman; she fears her daughter’s attendance will suffer in the first weeks of the semester during remote learning. “As soon as she is off

“As soon as she is off Zoom, she is on her own,” she said. “If I’m not keeping her on task, she isn’t on task. She is not a self starter, she needs someone to be on her.”

Completely synchronous learning might be helpful for many students like Cervantez’s daughter, meaning the instructor would be monitoring her on the video stream for 8 hours of the day. In reality, online learning moving forward will have a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous learning; time where the teacher is live conducting a dialogue, and time when students have to manage their own time to learn material and complete assignments.

School Board Trustee Anne Halsey said the transition to online was more challenging for elementary students because the curriculum was not already online. “There were great spots and some weaker spots. We weren't as prepared there,” Halsey said. “It was hard for parents to know how you support this online learning. Many parents had never done anything like that before. It's scary in a pandemic. Figuring out how to get through this was rough.”

For Halsey’s fourth grader, online learning provided some sunshine in an otherwise dreary situation by acting as a mental health check-in twice a day with someone outside the house.

Other working parents struggle in similar ways but decide to watch the case counts and keep learning at home until it feels safe to return, accepting that their child may fall behind, justifying that their health and safety is more important. 

In contrast to elementary aged kids, Janie Perez’s high school senior and sophomore are struggling with the lack of accountability for attendance online. Lack of motivation and focus may also stem from the mental health issues common in teenagers who are experiencing uncertainty and socialization withdrawals because of the pandemic.

“When they get to a certain age you expect them to be independent,” Perez said. “I wake them up and tell them to get online, and then come back hours later and they were snoring. It's the lack of structure and accountability with online learning. When you are getting up and getting ready to go to school, of course you have no option but to be alert and awake in the classroom.”

Eventually the students adjusted and teachers offered flexibility and leniency with making up assignments, which Perez said was helpful but took away more incentive to be present and focus.

Perez’s daughter Natalie Jaramillo said it was hard waiting for email responses from teachers every time she needed help, rather than walking up to the front of a classroom to ask for help. She said some teachers don’t respond in time.

Some parents saw their kids thrive online and take initiative to work even harder. Brian Blackwell’s daughter graduated one year early by finishing her junior and senior year requirements before summer. She is now a freshman at Texas State University. Returning to school and

Returning to school and learning online both pose different worries for students.

“I feel mixed,” Jaramillo said. “I am frustrated with online and I am a little excited to go back. I’m afraid people won’t wear a mask. We don’t know who has COVID. We only have one high school in San Marcos. There are so many kids there.”

Until the time comes when students can return to class, students and parents will do their best to keep up with classwork online for the first weeks of instruction, this time with modifications and lessons learned from the spring.

“Teachers worked really hard to connect with kids,” said Halsey. “I think it was a huge learning experience. Our curriculum instruction people have been working their tails off to make it a better, smoother experience for everybody.”

San Marcos Record

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P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666