5 Pro Tips To Score an “A” Grade on Teaching Kids During Quarantine

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I’ve been in the teaching game for nearly 15 years now, so I understand a lot of the ins and outs, good and bad, and what it’s like to learn from my own mistakes. For instance, I was puked on at least six times by students before I realized I should move our garbage can across the classroom and away from my desk.

There’s a reason why we remember some teachers and keep in touch with them long after our last report card. And conversely, I think there’s a reason why many of the more than 1,000 students I taught (and some of their parents) still reach out to me for advice. 

Being a good teacher is a lot like being a good parent. There are good and bad days on both sides. The most important pieces of the puzzle though — are to care about your students, be able to reach them on their level, and learn from your mistakes. 

Here are five tips to be a better teacher that I learned the hard way, so that you don’t have to: 

Tip 1: Be Open to Negotiations

Don’t approach homeschooling too rigidly. Make it fun and educational for your children. Sure, it’s great to have a routine and set a schedule, but leave room for fun too. For example, if your child wants to do 20 math problems instead of 30, make them beat you in a competition first. I would often take my students down to the school gymnasium and play a game of Knock Out on the basketball court to help decide things. In the long run, 20 math problems are just as good as 30 as long as they are getting them right. 

Tip 2: Know Your Student

Some of us are visual learners, others do best when left on their own. Some kids are great with online learning, while others can’t stand screen-time classes. Teaching, and learning, aren’t one-size-fits-all. “Online [and independent] learning is really hard for a lot of people. It requires a lot of self-regulated learning skills,” says MIT education researcher Justin Reich.

Different kids will do best in different learning environments. If your child learns better in groups, try a Zoom study session with a fellow classmate. The older kids are, the longer they may be able to work on their own.

Tip 3: Get Grandparents (and Others) To Help

My friend has four kids, and her mom used to be a teacher. While she’s helping the oldest two work on their schoolwork, Grandma helps one of the younger ones with phonics or colors from Facebook Messenger video call. This is a win-win all the way around. It gives seniors stuck at home something to do and look forward to and gives kids expertise and attention they might not otherwise have access to.

Who says you have to tackle this homeschooling all on your lonesome? Bring in family members and friends through video conferencing to lend you a hand. Do you have an engineer in your family who always seems to be talking about math? Do you have that aunt with purple hair who loves to talk about art? Do you know that saying it takes a village to raise a child? Well, that is infinitely even more true when it comes to homeschooling them.

Tip 4: Have a Screaming Pillow

Have you ever been so frustrated with things that you just have to scream? Well, I say, go ahead and do it! Heck, even encourage it! Just give each family member a pillow to scream into so your neighbors don’t call the police.

Some of the most important lessons I taught in my classrooms had nothing to do with common core math or last-century literature. 

I used to teach my junior high students job interview skills, even though it really had no direct correlation to my class. I would play an employer, and they would take their seat as a hopeful candidate. Then, I would do everything I could to distract them, from spinning around in circles in my chair as I asked them questions, to taking phone calls in the middle of the interview. Flash forward several years and many former students now thank me for helping them land their jobs as grown-ups. 

What other opportunities will come along like this that allows you so many uninterrupted weeks with your children? Seize the day. Teach your child how to cook, sew, do their laundry, change a flat tire, build a piece of furniture, construct a piece of art, or any number of other things they might not ordinarily learn. After all, life skills will get you further in the real world nowadays than knowing the capitals of all the countries in the world. (That’s what Google is for.) 


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