“The mute button. Yeah, the mute button. Hit the button next to ‘end call.’”

“It’s okay, we’re all learning.”

“Yes, I do see your dog!”

These words are uttered repeatedly in virtual classrooms. You have probably heard the word “mute” more than ever before. You have probably seen, in person or in photographs, a disgruntled child in headphones laying sideways on a too-big desk chair. It’s no secret: distance learning and teaching is hard, for all parties involved. Navigating a new system of learning and teaching amidst a pandemic is something that none of us signed up for.

But we’re trying.

With coronavirus cases still raging in California, school reopenings in the near future do not seem likely. Governor Gavin Newsom has recently rolled out a color framework for counties to dictate economic reopenings. This four-tiered framework represents varying degrees of COVID severity – yellow being minimal, orange; moderate, red; substantial, and finally purple; widespread. When a county has been in the red tier for at least 14 days, institutions can embark on the pursuit for reopening. At the time of this writing, Solano County is in the purple tier. 

In the unlikely event that schools do open in the near future, school re-closures due to COVID outbreaks are a real possibility.

Anyone who has worked with young children or has young children can attest to their nonchalance with germs. They lick their hands, cough while telling you a secret close to your ear, and quite simply, do not follow rules to a tee because they are rightfully imperfect, still-learning beings. Even for our goodie-goodie rule followers, sometimes it is impossible to abide by the rules with crowded classrooms and spaces unfit for proper distance. Think of the viral pictures of crowded high school hallways and the too-close desks in a classroom. It’s unsurprising that so many schools, globally and nationally, have had to close soon after reopening. 

Teachers, parents, guardians, and students are all exhausted.

The majority of us are ready to return and never look at each other through a Zoom call again. Students are missing out on important and valuable parts of their educational experience: the social-emotional learning and life skill training of collaborative work and academic discourse, the fun of assemblies, recess, and lunch period. Many parents are feeling frustrated and overwhelmed with balancing work and having their children learn from home. Teachers are trying to cram all grade level standards and curriculum into short blocks with glitchy connections and technological learning curves. 

Despite our eagerness to return to normalcy, the severity of this pandemic is not showing clear signs of slowing down. In order to weather the storm of distance learning, we must practice forgiveness, flexibility, and excellent communication. Mistakes are an essential part of learning. You, your children, and your child’s teacher are all in a learning process under strenuous and stressful circumstances. Schedules will change, wifi will crash, and plans will not always go as expected. To mitigate the certainty of error, communicate with your child’s teacher: ask clarifying questions, check your email frequently, and express concern with kindness. 

To assist your child with the discomfort of sitting at a computer for hours at time, explore flexible seating options.

Prior to COVID, many teachers implemented flexible seating options in their in-person classrooms with great results. Wiggly students especially benefit from kick bands, squishy chairs, and low tables. While at home learning, offer your child the option to lay on the floor on their stomach with a pillow for support. This is a great seating option for students who always seem to end up sideways on a desk chair thirty minutes into their virtual learning day. If this is against any virtual classroom norm, practice communication and polite concern with your child’s teacher. 

To help better a trying situation, remain curious and open to options (such as the aforementioned flexible seating) to assist your child’s learning. Be flexible, communicative, and above all else, understanding.