Teachers balance online instruction and taking care of their own children at home


Teachers must learn to balance both teaching from home and taking care of their children. Graphic by Julia Landy

Sofia Schorer Kaplan, Briana Martin, and Julia Fourment

As a way to stay socially distant during the COVID-19 pandemic, school districts worldwide, including Broward County Public Schools, have switched to remote online learning to start the 2020-21 school year. This school year is different as students and teachers will be learning primarily using Teams and Canvas. Many teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are now facing the challenge of taking care of their children while teaching remotely. 

For some teachers, they have their kids attend school and are occupied online for part of the day. However, that does not exclude teachers from their responsibilities as parents. Certain jobs, such as making lunch and printing out worksheets for their children, can cause interruptions throughout their day while they are teaching from home. 

“I feel like I am running a race each day,” English teacher and mother of two Dara Hass said. “I am constantly running from one responsibility to another with no breaks until late at night.” 

Hass has one child in Pre-K and another in second grade. Due to their young age, they need more help throughout the day. Some of her biggest challenges are when her oldest daughter needs assistance with technology or schoolwork, or when her youngest needs assistance with certain activities and getting snacks.

In addition to the time Hass spends assisting her kids at home, she also spends her day teaching language arts. 

“My students and their academics are important,” Hass said. “I spend hours after school and on weekends making lessons, online activities, contacting parents/students and grading to keep up with the virtual and academic needs of my students.” 

Among the many other MSD teachers who share this sentiment, chemistry teacher and mother of three, Tracy Benson, has begun to find a structure for balancing her life.

“It has been stressful balancing work and taking care of my children the past few weeks, but we are starting to find a routine and balance,” Benson said. 

Benson felt immensely stressed when the school year first began, but feels a sense of normalcy as she has gotten used to navigating both her children and teaching.

For Faith Spencer, a geometry teacher and mother of two, her biggest challenge is technology.

“The apps sometimes have glitches; sometimes they are down,” Spencer said. “My 9-year-old panics when that happens because he is afraid that he is missing out on instruction.”

The struggles teachers face teaching multiple classes a day while having young children are not overlooked by students. Many empathize with their teachers because of how well distractions have been handled under the circumstances.

“Teachers are probably stressed because they have to deal with their own kids while trying to help other kids learn,” freshman Lilly Velasco-Campbell said.

During daily live team meetings, students experience disruptions often due to internet glitches, poor network connections and various other technical issues. These problems do not exclude the teachers’ kids who need to get their parents’ attention. For many teachers and students, a certain level of stress can be associated with these many changes. Some teachers may have to pause their instruction to take care of their child’s needs. 

“My classes have been interrupted by the kids of teachers many times, but it has not prevented me from understanding the material or assignment,” Velasco said. 

While some students emphasize with their teachers, others have a different perspective. Freshman Emma Hershenson holds a different viewpoint on these distractions. 

“Sometimes it can be a disturbance for the class,” Hershenson said. “I don’t think it affects us that much, maybe a minute or two, but that’s all. It happens like once a week.” 

As online school progresses, young children, students and teachers are beginning to come to terms with the new and different struggles e-learning brings.

“At the end of the day, I know the stress of e-learning and supporting my own children are worth it, as I want both my family and students to stay healthy during this pandemic,” Hass said. “Academics and learning are important, but safety and health are a top priority too.” 

Ultimately, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the world’s normal way of life, especially for teachers that double as parents.