Doing Double Duty: SMCS Parent-Teachers

Prep time is coveted terrain for teachers, regardless of the grade level or subject area being taught. 

Dedicating ample time to plan lessons, ensure curriculum content is covered, organize ideas, and grade assignments or tests --- can be a challenge unto itself --- now exacerbated by the onset of a global health emergency.

These days, time can be in short supply for those teachers who are also parents themselves. 

Splitting time and making time to teach their students (through online learning) and in many cases their children, all from home, is a test on multiple levels.

In the second of a series, three faculty members at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) reveal their current reality --- in their own words.

SMCS parent-teacher Mr. Maiese

NICHOLAS MAIESE, English teacher
155 students in Grades 9, 11, and 12
Married with three boys (Twins in Grade 4, one in Senior Kindergarten)
Spouse is a stay-at-home mom

Are your children engaged in online learning through their school? 

All three of our kids are in public school in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). They had nothing for the first two weeks. This past week (April 7) some work started to trickle in. They have had some online interaction with peers and teachers and some YouTube videos, but mostly it has been independent work that requires me to teach them.

Are you home-schooling any of your children? 

We are home-schooling all three. The 10-year-olds must read for 30 minutes a day and then pick three 30-minute activities from a list of options (math, history, writing etc.). We aim for two hours a day. For the first two weeks, I was creating all the lessons. Thankfully, they are now starting to get some material from their teachers.

What has been your approach to both teaching your online classes for SMCS and home-schooling your children?

Patience. Flexibility. Kindness.

Biggest challenge doing both?

My days are long and hectic. I teach SMCS (online learning) from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., work with my boys from 1-3 p.m., and then head back to my office to prep SMCS lessons for the next day. It is tough because we have a small house and it is hard to find a quiet space to work.

SMCS student completing and assignment in the classroom.


What have you learned about yourself through this dual role/process?

I love my kids even more than I thought. I love teaching them. I miss my students even more than I thought I would.

Tips for other parents who are not educators and who struggle to manage working from home and home-schooling?

Patience. Flexibility. Kindness.

Focus on staying positive. Don’t make it a battle or a chore. Change it up. We did fractions while baking.

Pick one or two things that are non-negotiable. For us, it’s reading and writing. They must do that every day. 

You don’t want home-schooling to create a rift in your relationship. Right now, the emphasis needs to be on love and togetherness. This is already an incredibly stressful time, don’t add to it.

Has it been an advantage or disadvantage to be an educator taking on both of these roles during the same period?

I do think that being a teacher has instilled an empathy in me that allows me to be patient with my kids and students.

What has surprised you most about this situation?

How diligent the SMCS boys have been. They have been amazing so far and have done everything that I’ve asked of them.

How much a Zoom (online meeting platform) face-to-face can mean. It has been really nice to see and speak with the students. It reminds me that the world is still out there!

Are you concerned about your children not being fully prepared for their next grade, as a result of this pandemic? Why or why not?

Of course. As much as we are trying to create a good learning environment at home, it can’t replace a full day of school.  As much as we try, the online classroom can never replace the learning experience of a real classroom.

 

SMCS parent-teacher Dr. Lumsden

DR. DANIEL LUMSDEN ’96, Mathematics and accounting teacher
129 students in Grades 10, 11, and 12
Married with one child (Grade 2)
Spouse currently working from home

Is your child engaged in online learning through their school? 

He is actively engaged in online learning from his teacher. Interaction is twice a week.

Are you home-schooling your child? 

Yes, I am home-schooling my son. I take a play-based method approach when it comes to literacy and math skills.

What has been your approach to both teaching your online classes for SMCS and home-schooling your child?

I already use a flip classroom approach in my face-to-face classroom, and I use the same approach with online learning while having a modular approach.

With regards to my son, I use a play-based approach with his literacy and math skills.

Biggest challenge doing both?

The flipped classroom and modular approach are very manageable. However, I have not taught six classes online at the same time. The logistics at first were a challenge, but it has been running smoothly ever since. 

With my son, my wife also works full-time from home, so we have put together a schedule that works for our son. 

What have you learned about yourself through this dual role/process?

I have learned that you have to be patient during these times. Working out and having a clear mind has gotten me through. 

Tips for other parents who are not educators and who struggle to manage working from home and home-schooling?

Do the best you can with the resources you have. 

SMCS parent-teacher Dr. Lumsden helping student with math at the whiteboard

Dr. Daniel Lumsden ’96 teaches mathematics and accounting at St. Michael’s College School, and is also helping his seven-year-old son with schoolwork at home.

Has it been an advantage or disadvantage to be an educator taking on both of these roles during the same period?

I would say this has been an advantage. My modular approach, I find has worked well for my students. Using a play-based approach with home-schooling has worked quite well. 

Dr. Cathy Marks Krpan (Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, The Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, University of Toronto) uses concept circles for student numeracy in elementary schools. I have found that to be a great tool. 

Along with play-based learning the transition has been smooth. 

What has surprised you most about this situation (teaching virtually and home-schooling)?

I am not surprised. I have been teaching online for two years during summer courses, and have taken close to 30 online courses myself. I have found the transition to work quite smoothly. 

Are you concerned about your children not being fully prepared for their next grade, as a result of this pandemic? 

I am not worried at all. My son is in Grade 2, and while the development is important, he is getting the instruction he will need for Grade 3, while having fun at the same time. 

Anything else you'd like to add?

I have found that my research in flipped classrooms has made this switch to online learning a smooth transition. I have been flipping my classes for seven years now, and it is not so much about the videos, but the face-to-face interactions with students. This method is great for student engagement and strengthening student-teacher relationships.
    
Note: 

‘Flipped classrooms’ is a pedagogical approach in which the normal classroom learning experience is inverted. Class time is used for application, inquiry, discussion, and assessment. New concepts are introduced outside of the classroom environment, as part of a student’s homework.

SMCS parent-teacher Mr. Giancola

DARRYL GIANCOLA, Core teacher (history, religion, physical education, and English)
125+ students in Grades 7 and 8
Married with two children (Grade 7 and Grade 1)
Spouse is currently working from home

How many of your children are engaged in online learning through their school? 

Both just started online learning last week, but it is nothing like what we are doing at St. Michael’s.  

Both are getting their work posted in module format for the entire week and they hand things in. There is no teacher feedback, nor any face-to-face interaction with their teachers. My son does about eight hours per week and my daughter about five hours.

Are you home-schooling any of your children?

I am trying to. I was home-schooling them a great deal the first two weeks of the quarantine, but last week I just evaluated their work and supplemented.

I also help them with online organization and a great deal of supplementing with higher level work and activities that are more practical.

What has been your approach to both teaching your online classes for SMCS and home-schooling your children?

I am trying to limit the workload and ‘module’ type of work. 

Students want face-to-face interactions with teachers and classmates. So, I am on Zoom at least three classes a week and I often use Zoom to start my class just to check in and have them see me and their classmates. It is great.

I am also trying to add more relevant activities for SMCS students, ones that are helping them understand the situation. For example: A question asking about the current leadership in handling COVID-19 and how Laurier (Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Prime Minister of Canada from 1896-1911) might have handled it, or taking the opportunity to use tech tools like video conferencing, group work, and Flipgrid as a means to present.

For my kids, I am trying to get them to work together, and perform activities that are project-based (building rockets, making videos, etc.)

My wife is not an educator, but she helps to keep them organized and checks their teachers’ assignments.

SMCS parent-teacher Mr. Giancola teaches students at the front of the class

A father of two, Darryl Giancola, Core Intermediate and English teacher, is also managing online learning for more than 125 students at St. Michael’s College School.

Biggest challenge doing both?

None really. Time management has been different, but we have all adjusted. 

What have you learned about yourself through this dual role/process?

An online presence to teach can be fun and educational. 

I have re-tooled lessons that I have taught for years in order to adapt to this new platform. It has made me a better teacher and thinker, trying to find ways to deliver content like history, but have meaningful ways to keep the kids interested and engaged from a distance.

Tips for other parents who are not educators and who struggle to manage working from home and home-schooling?

Keep your children organized. Strive to still keep binders or online means to keep online folders organized.  

Also, check in with them. See how they are doing and check their work. Go onto Edsby, ask to see their assignments and work, and most importantly, ask them how they’re enjoying it. Are they seeing and chatting with friends? 

Ask them what they are doing for physical education too. They need to stay active and creatively fit.

Has it been an advantage or disadvantage to be an educator taking on both of these roles during the same period?

A huge advantage. I don't know how someone who is not a teacher could do it!!!

In fact, some of my non-teacher friends have asked me to help give them activities and work.  

The public school workload is just not adequate in order to keep kids busy and learning.

What has surprised you most about this?

Attendance is great! Grade 7 and 8 kids are very enthused and enjoying it. The collection of assignments through Edsby is amazing.

Are you concerned about your children not being fully prepared for their next grade, as a result of this pandemic? 

A little. I think they will be fine with however the provincial government moves forward. But, my kids are doing more and as a teacher, I have always advanced their learning.  

St. Michael’s College School moved to online learning beginning March 24, 2020, following the government-mandated closure of all school buildings for an indefinite period, as a result of the novel coronavirus.