A Love Letter to Educators and Parents During School Closures

MARCH 17, 2020

The nation is asking a lot of you right now. States and districts are closing with just a moment’s notice. Many of you have sent home resources or are creating virtual classrooms out of thin air. Some of you are still waiting to hear if your district and state will follow the growing trend of temporary closure. And no matter how much preparation you do, you still can’t control your students’ home life or their access to technology.

There are a lot of unknowns. There are potentially scary moments ahead. These are truly uncertain times. We want you to know that we see you. We, at iCivics, empathize with the stresses you’re experiencing. And those of us with kids are right there in the trenches with you trying to figure out how to create some resemblance of structure as we proceed together during these unprecedented times. 

As a parent who works from home and often balances working with kids during breaks and summer vacation, I have a bit of advice that could help with productivity and ease frustration:

  • Chunk the work. Work in 90-minute intervals and take 15-30 minutes off.
  • Work side-by-side. When my kids were toddlers I had no nanny, I used to provide them with “work” — a favorite game, puzzle or app, and I would complete a task that was less intense like clearing the inbox.
  • Find time to work off-hours. If possible, shift your schedule to work a few hours early morning or evening when kids are asleep or winding down.
  • Mix the scenery. Take your laptop outside or to the park. This allows your kids an opportunity to run around and you can still get a little work done.
  • Collaborate on ground rules. My children drafted an agreement to help them work together and minimize arguments. This is a very civic activity that allows them to hold each other accountable during moments of discord. Most of the time. Sometimes. 
  • Connect on social. Reach out to our team or follow some of the helpful and hilarious hashtags that have emerged during this time (#quaranteaching, #covidcation, #sschat). Join parenting and teacher groups on Facebook so that you don’t feel alone. 
  • Leave space for grace. You’re only human and you shouldn’t expect to win them all, especially when we’re all just starting to figure out what is happening. Be kind to yourself and your kids. 

For better or worse, the resiliency and adaptability of educators and parents have inspired the nation. We’ve witnessed collaboration online and have heard back from educators who have formed support groups in their buildings. We’re getting success stories from our teachers who’ve held their first online classes with students. We’re listening as teachers are taking this moment in stride and doing the best they can with what they have. Even more beautiful, the growing appreciation for what you do is unfolding online. Parents who’ve never taught before are realizing the amount of hard work and professionalism that is required to engage a classroom of kids every day. Did y’all see that Shonda Rhimes Tweet?

At iCivics, we take teacher AND parent support very seriously. Use us as a resource — we’ve got 20 fun, free games that are perfect for times like this. Send us an email or a Tweet. If we don’t have the resource, we know someone who does. And don’t forget to insert a bit of humor into the day. It helps. We’re all just trying to stay afloat and we’re all doing it as best we can.

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If you get cabin fever or are looking for a way to waste a bit of time, my daughters and I made a Coronavirus Dance Challenge video. We hope our goofiness grants a smile while also sharing best practices for keeping everyone safe. We hope you enjoy and join the fun!

iCivics Educator Network member, Joe Harmon and his kids in Pennsylvania, also took up our challenge. 

Written By Amber Coleman-Mortley

Amber Coleman-Mortley is the Director of Social Engagement at iCivics. She’s a former teacher and varsity coach and a parent blogger. She makes her own kombucha and makes her girls run a mile every morning. Follow her on Twitter at @momofallcapes.

Need more? iCivics has compiled enrichment activities, our most popular and timely games, and lessons into a Remote Learning Toolkit so you can easily find resources to support remote learning and share them with students and their families.