Sun | Nov 29, 2020

Online juggling act - Supermom teachers struggle for balance in helping their own kids while schooling students

Published:Wednesday | October 28, 2020 | 12:05 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Camecia Vassell, grade six teacher at St Michael’s Primary, interacting with some of her students during an online class. The mother of two says doubling as teacher and mom is driving her “up the wall””.
Camecia Vassell, grade six teacher at St Michael’s Primary, interacting with some of her students during an online class. The mother of two says doubling as teacher and mom is driving her “up the wall””.

It has been a struggle for educators who are mothers to school-age children in the COVID-19 education era.

Their homes have become halls of learning for their children as well as the tens of thousands they teach online daily.

“I have not been balancing well at all. Monitoring my students online and trying to assist my two children. It’s too much,” Sandiloy McGregor-Madourie, an educator with 11 years of service, told The Gleaner.

The 37-year-old mothers a six-year-old and two-year-old, as well as a 10-month-old toddler.

McGregor-Madourie explained that though she is not in the physical classroom, she is expected to maintain the same standard of professionalism and be at the beck and call of all her students.

“This, in turn, means I am not able to sit with either the six- or two-year-old to assist them with their work. Sometimes the six-year-old gets frustrated and sad because she may not understand something and I’m not able to assist at the time,” she said.

The teacher admitted that at the end of the workday, when she has to begin round two of instruction, she is “... too worn out to really help her”.

For two days of the school week, the educator is offline but has to facilitate queries from students and parents.

McGregor-Madourie has the support of her husband, but said that he is not always able to drop off or pick up books at the different schools at the stipulated time.

She is thankful that her 10-month-old is able to stay with a babysitter during the days, as that would have been another huge hurdle.

“My main concern is that with all of this, if I am not vigilant and focused, my children can regress because I am so busy teaching online and balancing other household chores,” said a worried McGregor-Madourie.

Vivette James, 40, a high-school teacher in St James, shared that as a single parent, splitting time between household oversight and her official job has been difficult, especially in the initial stages.

“Supervision has been the bane of my existence. I am stressed out over the fact that my son has not mastered the art of managing on his own, even though he tries,” she said of her nine-year-old.

James told The Gleaner that she has to ensure he logs in on time and pays attention to chalk-and-talk instruction via video. Additionally, she has to keep an eye out for distractions such as playing games or chatting online with friends during lessons.

James also has the responsibility of preparing all his meals, a contrast to the school setting when lunch was prepared at the canteen.

“With so much to do, I guess some things will suffer,” the teacher of 18 years concluded.

Camecia Vassell is a grade six teacher at St Michael’s Primary School and mother of two children aged three and 17.

The 39-year-old said she hasn’t bothered to try striking a balance between personal and professional responsibilities because “it would drive me up the wall”.

Her three-year-old daughter goes online for an hour on Monday mornings and attends classes face to face for the rest of the school week, while her son, a sixth-former, does not really need her assistance.

Vassell begins her classes and tries to get the interaction component completed in time for her younger child’s session.

“I have to switch to my daughter’s tablet and guide the process, then check to see what’s happening with my class. It has become tedious and sometimes I have to be kind to my emotions so as to keep my composure and remind myself that I am only human,” she shared.

Grade one teacher at Holy Family Primary and Infant School, Sherece Neil, has a class of 22 students.

To date, she is yet to meet them all, as on days when teaching happens in real time, only four to six students log on.

Neil has found the responses equally discouraging on other days when work is set and dispatched on various platforms.

The teacher reasoned that she is worried about the level of educational stimulation they are receiving at home but remains hopeful that attendance will improve as parents and students continue to get accustomed to the new normal.

Neil’s husband is also an educator and they share a four-year-old daughter.

Turning to her child, Neil said: “It has been a little challenging and at times l find myself struggling to cope and be on top of my game. The demands seem to be greater in the virtual realm than it was in the physical.”