I Was Just Thinking: Parents as Teachers–The Struggle During COVID-19

By Norma Adams-Wade
Columnist 

Here are two of the many things we are learning from the coronavirus: (1) A new respect for teachers, if we did not already have it as we should. (2) A new awareness that, for the most part, parents as teachers are out of their league. Texas schools closed temporarily in March then in April for the remainder of the school year. A battle royale for families has been having children at home all day, with parents attempting to teach them school work on top of all their other parental duties.

All across the state and nation, parents are singing the same frantic song as they realize the enormity of this task they are facing. In countless households, parents are struggling to provide learning the government has mandated that must continue for their children — despite parents’ limited knowledge of how to do the job and master the technology involved. 

I was just thinking…. what advice would someone give who sees both sides of the coin – from school and from family? Dr. LaTrese Adkins, an educator, and Dallas native, wears both hats. She has been observing the situation recently and has talked with many parents and her own relatives with children at home.

She passionately is urging parents and families to use this mandatory at-home teaching experience as incentive to fight for state and national improvements for teachers, in their careers and classrooms. “This experience has been a wakeup call across the nation,” said Dr. Adkins who was valedictorian of her graduating class at Lincoln High School in South Dallas during the 1990s.

No stranger to the classroom, the education advocate has had an inside view of what both students and parents face while she helps relatives with at-home teaching tasks during this coronavirus health crisis. Dr. Adkins earned a Bachelor’s degree with a double major in History and Africana Studies from Wellesley College and Master’s and doctorate degrees from Michigan State University in American History and Comparative Black History. She uses her own background as both teacher and former student to identify with both sides in this crisis. 

Now that parents and families see what it takes to get through a day teaching children, it would be great if these families would begin to advocate for much-needed education reforms that would benefit teachers and students, Dr. Adkins said. “There needs to be a groundswell for a significant increase in teachers’ salaries now that parents are experiencing what teachers go through,” Dr. Adkins said. “We should see a movement by parents like never before, saying ‘We got to do better by teachers.’” 

But she said parents should not overstressed themselves trying to add teaching to their already full plates. Dr. Adkins offers this advice to flustered parents, many who are trying too hard, faced with impossible schedules: 

A. Find what works for YOUR family and stick with it. 

B. Make out a family school work schedule that will not stress parents or children. 

C. If it works to do all the work in two days and have the rest of the time free, do so. 

D . Communicate honestly with the teacher, by phone or computer, about how your family is accomplishing assignments. Find mutual ground. 

E. Parents should not stress over subjects they do not understand. Get help from others or the teacher, and if that does not work, move on. 

F. Reward or reinforce the child’s successes with school work. Rewards could be buying their favorite cereal or decorating their room in a fun way. Reinforcement could be verbal praise so the child feels good about the school work they complete. 

G. By now, families should have an inside view of the strengths and weaknesses of the education system; and see that the flaws are a societal issue that everyone can play a part in fixing – from corporations to neighborhood associations. 

“We are putting our money into buildings and books,” Dr. Adkins said. “But at some point, we must put our money into our human resources – the teachers. And everybody should be talking about these babies, the children.”

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