Teachers Run Online Classes While Also Being Full-time Parents

Sophie Shayne, Editor-in-Chief

The global pandemic has drastically changed the workplace of millions of people, including teachers, who all have to overcome the distractions and uncertainty of a new work environment. Online school poses even more challenges for some Madison teachers who are also parents. With their children at home doing school and needing care, many teachers are faced with the obstacle of balancing their roles as a parent and teacher at the same time. 

Theresa Schneider, a history teacher at Madison, is a mother of four. Two of her children who are in elementary school do remote learning in their bedrooms. Her other two children, ages three and one years old, would usually be in daycare, but Schneider and her husband decided that it was safest to keep them at home. 

Schneider and her four children smile for a picture in front of Schneider’s desk. (Photo courtesy of Theresa Schneider)

“When I am not teaching, I am taking care of my children,” Schneider said. “I am not sitting in front of my computer. Class ends and I go upstairs and take care of my kids until five or ten minutes before class begins.”

Schneider and her husband, who has to go into work every other week, work together to juggle their schedules along with their children’s school schedules and nap times. In some cases, schedules overlap to make it easier, but many times they do not.

“It is a lot of management,” Schneider said. “I honestly feel like I am being a mom and taking care of my kids, and I am teaching in some way, shape or form my two elementary kids, and then I’m teaching my high school kids.”

While Schneider teaches class in her basement, there are sometimes distractions coming from the rest of the house.

“Behind the scenes, there’s running around, there’s screaming and there’s crying,” Schneider said. “It is distracting to me trying to be in the zone and teach you guys or do what I need to do, but I have to make it work.”

Jennifer DeLaet, a mathematics teacher at Madison, has also had to adjust her and her son’s workspace to best handle the distractions that come with remote learning.

“We actually have two desks, one by me and one by my husband,” DeLaet said. “If he has questions or if he needs help, he can bounce back and forth between both of us. Obviously, with me teaching live, there are times during the day where I’m like ‘I can’t help you right now.'”

DeLaet is in a similar situation to Schneider and many other parents. She has a seven year old son who is doing second grade from home. DeLaet says that her son has been very independent with being able to log onto his classes by himself. His teacher has done a great job of keeping him fully engaged the whole time.

“Everybody always says that your kid will act differently around their parents and in school,” DeLaet said. “However, he does such a good job of listening to his teacher. He is excited in class, and he participates.”

DeLaet’s son, Jayson, sits at his desk for online school. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer DeLaet)

Regardless of the distractions, working from home allows some parents a new opportunity to catch a glimpse of their children while they are in school. 

“It is really cool to peek in on my son’s class and see him participating in a way that I would never be able to see,” Schneider said. “I look at my 5-year-old daughter, and she is in there cutting and pasting and listening with her headphones to the teacher. There are moments like that when, as a parent, I am choked up.”

In addition to insight on the type of students their children are, teachers get to spend more time with them. Whether it may be going on a bike ride after school or spending lunch together, teachers see their children in the work week during the majority of the day instead of just a few hours.

“Instead of seeing him for like two or three hours a day, we spend a lot of time together, and it has been really nice,” DeLaet said. “It is a bonus of all of this. That is weird to say, but it has actually been really nice. We are trying to take advantage of it and just enjoy it.”

DeLaet and her son together on a lunch break during an online school day. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer DeLaet)

Distanced learning has opened doors for both students and teachers to be able to see into each other’s lives at home. That new insight comes with the understanding that these times are not normal and neither is this form of learning. 

“Sometimes you’re going to be pulled away from a computer or from the lesson or you can’t get something turned in,” Schneider said. “We’ve got to work together, understand that these things happen, communicate with each other and we will find a way through it.”

The future, especially in a global pandemic, presents many uncertainties. While Fairfax County Public Schools has not announced when or if they are going to bring students back to in-person school, parents and teachers wonder what the future holds and prepare for whatever they can.

“As much as I want to see my students and I love being in person with them, I can’t wrap my head around how it is going to work and how it is going to work for our family if I am told you have to go back in person,” DeLaet said. “Living in the moment, that is really where I am. One day at a time.”