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Learning during the pandemic, seen through the eyes of parents

How have parents experienced distance learning at private schools in Poland

Students at various levels of education told us how they feel during the pandemic about remote learning. We discussed their experiences in the article "A pandemic through the eyes of students."

And now it's time to hear the opinions and feelings of parents of children and young people attending private schools.  continue reading...

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Preparing the previous article, we talked not only with the students themselves, but also with their parents. Their children go to private schools and are of different ages—the youngest are primary school students (grade 5), and the oldest are high school students.

All our interviewees highly appreciated how they managed the school crisis. The more schools communicate with parents, the safer they feel. They mention that initially not only the schools and children themselves, but also them—parents, felt a lot of stress: how to cope? "Our school has led us smoothly through a time of change—both children and us—parents. There were emails, phone calls, offers of help. There is less contact now, because you don't need it anymore, but I really appreciate this beginning,” says the mother of a high school student in class II.

Private schools usually focus on close contact with parents and their active involvement. “In our school,” says one mother, “I helped parents find and install the platform.”

Where the school has little contact with parents, doubts about how all this works are greater.

Time in front of the screen

All parents think that children spend too much time in front of screens—computers, which are necessary to be able to take part in school activities, but also tablets or phones outside the classroom. All in all, it gives you many hours of screen time a day.

"I'm worried about my son's eyesight. Even he admits that his eyes are bothering him,” says the eighth grade mother, who not only has to attend school face-to-face classes on Teams, but also do homework on a computer and learn from materials sent electronically. And there is also interaction with colleagues which takes place electronically, e.g., through FaceTime or text messages. "I understand that they must contact each other outside of class. I’m happy when they’re talking on the phone, because at least their eyes are resting,” says one high school mother. "Teachers could give children the task to go for a walk, because now they can, and describe everything they saw, instead of keeping the kids so long in front of the screen," says the mom of a high school student.

Scope of the material

In addition to the parents of eighth grade students who know that their children are going to take the exams, others believe that schools could "let go," that is, limit the material implemented.

"It's 5th, not 8th grade, so maybe it would be better to focus on the most important subjects rather than teaching Teams on history, biology, or just asking materials from these subjects to rework from books," says one mother.

The fact that lessons are interactive, unlike most public schools, is an unquestionable plus in the eyes of parents, but some activities, stress parents, could be away from the computer. One mother says that even art and technology at her child's school takes place in a face-to-face format. "It is not necessary. The children even made Easter eggs while sitting with the teacher in front of the computer. For what? They could take them themselves and then take pictures or video and show them to the class and teacher,” he notes.

Now, when learning from a distance, you can see how difficult the core curriculum is: "Now we can see how the program is overloaded," says the mother of an eighth-grade student.

It’s good that there are teachers who make children move, take care of their attitude, how to set up a desk, and make them do different exercises—such actions very appreciated by parents.

Holidays, camps, trips

This can't be done or replaced. Children are just sad when they learn they will not go to their favorite camps or trips, but many parents see it much more dramatically. "It's a trauma and I'm afraid of how it will affect their psyche. Such trips are a very important part of a child's life, complementing what they have at school," says the mother of a 7-year-old. Especially for only children.

We peek ...

Never before parents had the opportunity to see what the lessons look like and how teachers teach. Now they can often "preview" this. "Some teachers really impress me. After all, they are also learning this new system, they must look for new materials. It's very time consuming, and they have their own families, stresses, and the same number of hours in the day as others,” says a primary school mom.

Not all teachers are excellent, but everyone is trying, parents say. Maybe after returning to normalcy there will be time for summaries and assessments. Now we need to support each other.

Who’s doing better and who’s worse

According to parents, how well their children feel and are doing in the current distance learning system depends on various factors:

The child's personality: introverted children are doing better because they do not lack company so much and large peer groups. One mother compares her two children: daughter and son. Her older daughter misses school because of the lack of groups, noise, and stimulation. Her younger brother always spent time alone after school, except for some extra extracurricular activities a week. For him, the new format is not a problem.

Other interests and passions: it is easier for children who had passions pursued in "normal time" to get involved deeper. One father says that his high school son has always been interested in astronomy and is now deepening his knowledge, and a wise educator gives him the opportunity to share his knowledge with others during non-mandatory afternoon meetings, so the son finds interesting movies, photos, and information. It’s= great relaxation for him and he has more time for it (normally it takes him a minimum of an hour and a half a day to get to school and return from it).

Alternative programs: among my interviewees, there were no children and parents from schools teaching the A-Levels program, but I had the opportunity to listen to the opinions of students from IB schools and their parents. All parents emphasized that this program, which focuses on independence and a project work system, has prepared their children to find themselves fairly easily in the new reality. "It wasn't until I talked to my friends whose children go to public schools and some private, but going to the Polish program that I fully realized how well our IB school equipped my daughter with important skills of independent work," says the mom of a high school student.

Pandemic lessons

"Contrary to appearances, how it looks now is a good lesson for all of us. Students learn independence, responsibility, honesty. Parents are beginning to notice and appreciate the enormity of work that teachers put into their children's education every day. The most important is for me that as a parent I feel that we are not wasting this time," says the mom of a fourth grade elementary school student.

What did pandemic teach children and their families?

New skills: children have learned many useful skills that will be useful in the future, such as writing emails, using many computer applications, searching for information, and ways to deal with various problems or failures.

New habits: in this situation, say parents, children must themselves control the elements that were imposed on them or given ready in normal school mode. "Before, the kids came to school and their school timetable, class time, and breaks were managed. Now they have to take care of it themselves, check what is given, announced, and communicated. They must remember what time to come back after the extended break for lessons. My son is much more organized and independent when it comes to school work," says his eighth grade father. Children must be more responsible, they must be more involved. This is helped by the attractiveness of the school's work forms: "The classes are so attractive that I did not notice any problems in my daughter's class with self-discipline," says the mother of a fourth grade girl. This will be useful for "after a pandemic," parents say,

New ways to spend time: the 11-year-old son of one of my interviewees is doing completely new things now: he produces funny videos about his dog, searches YouTube to find card tricks. "He looks for it all by himself and enjoys it." The surprised but satisfied mother of a high school student says: “My daughter began to bake bread and cakes according to my grandmother's old recipes with her family. I never thought she would enjoy it. She always either ran into her room or went out to meetings. "

Board games, family walks, dog: "Suddenly we remembered that we have board games at home and we are happy to play them together. Previously, my son was sitting at his computer in his free time," says the mother of an 11-year-old. "We don't have to pull him away from the computer screen at all. Sam is fed up after many hours of computer lessons. I never thought that I would see something like that in my home, ”

Family: several parents emphasized that as a family they got very close. "We talk more because we spend more time together. It turns out that being together in a larger dose is OK. My son and daughter are also finally talking to each other, not just falling in and out of the kitchen,” says the mother of two. It's not perfect everywhere—I also hear stories about families where there are conflicts and clashes, but where relationships were strong before the pandemic, it's easier now.


"Once again, I thank God that my child is studying in a private school. I chose such a school (and I enjoy it every day) because I knew that it was safe there—no violence, no phones, no high school, good academics, small classes, three languages, great extracurricular activities, a common room. Now, even though many of these elements have fallen off, one thing is certain—the school tries hard and cares for students and for us, the parents. Teachers are available online, children can ask questions and ask for advice," says the mother of an eight-grader. I hear similar opinions from other parents.

Small classes, close communication of the school with students and parents are other advantages of private schools that help a lot in times of pandemics.

Everyone wants to return to freedom, to normal school, but ... certainly many lessons from this strange and difficult time will remain forever.

Our Kids recommends

We encourage you to read the other articles of our series about learning in private schools during the COVID-19 era:

Private schools during the COVID-19 pandemic

Learning during the pandemic, seen through the eyes of students

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