Oakland Voices is interviewing parents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March 2020, public school students in Oakland have been in “crisis learning” and distance learning mode. We reached out to parents to explore struggles they may have, any benefits they see to distance learning, and support that they would welcome.
“Last semester, online was a challenge for Kyle because he really enjoys interacting with his friends and he likes being able to ask questions to his teacher or his peers when he’s working. He kind of thrives in that environment. He kind of struggled a bit with moving remote. He missed being on campus and he missed his friends,” said Candase Chambers, an entrepreneur and online business owner (baybelle.com) and parent of a 5th grader at Carl B. Munck Elementary School.
Because Chambers works from home in normal times, she was able to support Kyle in ways that some parents haven’t been able to, particularly if they are essential workers and work outside the home. “For me, it wasn’t really a huge adjustment because I can basically work remote from anywhere. So, I was able to help him, when needed, or make sure he’s on Zoom on time. It was a bigger adjustment for him,” she said.
Even though Chambers works from home, she still had to make some adjustments. “I needed to factor in his schedule into my working schedule. I have to schedule meetings at different times now. Sometimes we’d have Zoom meetings at the same time. He might just pop into the frame and say, ‘Hi.’ Making noise in the background. Which is fine. People understand. Everyone’s at home now,” she said.
Parents often express concern about how much learning their children are receiving now that schools are closed and teaching and learning are online. Chambers thinks that Kyle was and is able to learn online, despite the unfamiliar conditions. “I feel like for his grade level, it was a smooth transition. He still had his assignments. They were still due weekly. Normally, they would get an assignment packet on Monday and it’s due Friday. He still had that happen in his class,” she said, adding that Kyle was already familiar with technology: “He was actually more familiar with Google than I had known because he had technology classes at school. So he was able to access all his assignments. Nothing really changed outside of being in the classroom.”
Last semester, Chambers bought a small, inexpensive notebook computer for Kyle because they both needed to be on the computer at the same time and he had been using her laptop. But, this semester, he has had the use of a Chromebook provided by the school. “I think the district was more prepared (this semester). Along with the Chromebook, they also provided a school bag of school supplies, along with the workbooks that would be needed and all the materials. So, this semester, there really wasn’t a need to purchase anything additional.” She added, “Everything was digital, which was great because Kyle is more and more comfortable with using the computer. I can’t think of one job that doesn’t use technology or computers, so I think that’s great.”
Kyle is a very active youngster and was involved in lots of sports before the pandemic, and that has been a challenge for his mother (and Kyle). “I think the biggest challenge has been keeping my son from just feeling he has cabin fever. He’s very athletic because he has so much energy. He had swim class once a week, and he played on a baseball team, and the after-school program has a flag football team, so he was always very active and would come home tired and hungry because he’d got all this energy out of him,” said Chambers. She talked about how Kyle now gets exercise: “We have a little courtyard where we live and we get outside as much as possible for walks. He likes to go outside in the yard. He has a little baseball tee and a little net that he’ll hit the ball into,” she said. But, “He’s been kind of bummed out that he can’t play with his teammates,” she added.
Although Chambers is comfortable with her son receiving his education online for now, she has felt some stress about whether he would get the same quality of education online as he got in a regular classroom. “I helped relieve that stress by being more engaged with him, by looking at his schedule and talking with him about what he is learning in class.”