By Brian Sauer
Citywide Director of Education
Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco
Over the past few weeks, we have all experienced unprecedented changes that have greatly altered our daily lives. It feels like we have all become actors in an all-too-real pandemic movie. But in this movie, we aren’t necessarily the heroes out saving humanity. We have been thrust into other roles ‑ principal, counselor, and teacher of our very own school-at-home. All while most of us hold down a job that we also do at home!
As a parent of three boys, an experienced teacher, and the Citywide Director of Education at Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco, I wanted to share some of my thoughts and observations on transitioning to school-at-home and share some of the exciting things that we are offering through BGCSF’s Virtual Clubhouse experience.
1) Allow yourself to acknowledge that school-at-home is very challenging. I was a math and science teacher for 12 years, and I am married to a teacher-librarian with over 20 years of experience. We have three boys at home, two in middle school and one in elementary school. Even for us, school-at-home is an enormous challenge. Each of our kids is very different in the way they learn—plus the subjects that interest them and their abilities to read, write, and understand math vary greatly. Without the routine and support of school, they have struggled to adjust to the new reality. It is easy to imagine that other families have easily made the transition to school-at-home, but I can assure you that is not the case. Almost every family I have talked to is still trying to figure it out, and some of them are also experienced teachers.
2) Schools and teachers are also struggling with how to transition to online learning. I have talked with a number of teachers and administrators who are working longer hours to figure out how to reach students from a distance. There are lots of different opinions and ideas about the best platforms and methods for reaching students. It can be confusing for teachers as they are now trying to collaborate and transfer their traditional classes online. Your children will absorb some of this confusion, and assignments may not always be clear. My advice to every parent is to do the best they can to help their children complete assignments and avoid frustration. Sometimes that will mean completing the work in alternate ways that resonate with your children.
3) Your student’s continued learning is most important. When our children are going to school every day, it is important that they keep up with the class and finish assignments on time. They have access to teachers and support when they need help. In a school-at-home situation, that isn’t necessarily the case, and as parents, sometimes we are at a loss to keep up. To counter that, remember that there are alternative ways that children learn that can be just as valuable (or in some cases more valuable) as school. Do your best to keep up with the curriculum, and recognize that it will be okay if you can’t do it all. Keeping your child motivated and learning without creating a frustrating situation will be far more valuable in the long run. Come fall, schools will need to address the curriculum gap which will be common across the student body.
4) Seek alternative resources and enrichment activities to provide your children with opportunities to learn. Encourage your children to read and engage with stories each day. Books, graphic novels, and magazines that interest your children are a great option. But given that it may be a challenge to getting those right now, there are alternatives. One of those options is to find a podcast that captures your children’s attention. Listening is an important part of literacy, and podcasts can provide some engaging storytelling.
These sites have a great list of podcasts for kids of all ages and can combine interesting content with literacy:
Although very few of us would consider ourselves to be a scientist, there are a number of sites that offer free content for kids. My favorite is Mystery Science. Easy to navigate, it contains mini and full lessons organized by grade level and aligned with National Science Standards.
For kids, alternate activities that they enjoy independently or with a family member can be a good break between academics or something to look forward to throughout the day. Giving your kids a chance to stretch and move around to release some energy will help with focus. Dancing, yoga, jumping jacks, walks, or running (depending on your access to space) are all options to get kids moving. When it comes to creative arts, you can provide your kids with simple supplies to draw, color or create, which can be as simple as paper, pencil, and some crayons. Things like legos, puzzles, tinkering, and clay are also good outlets.
5) Keep your kids connected to the Club through BGCSF’s Virtual Clubhouse. We are thrilled to be able to provide BGCSF’s Virtual Clubhouse as a way for youth to stay connected with Club staff. Clubs have been working hard to develop innovative programs that engage youth in creative arts, athletics, STEM, literacy, and academic support. We will also continue our youth leadership programs, including Keystone Club, Torch Club, the job-readiness LIT program, Camp Council, and the President’s Advisory Committee, to engage our middle and high school youth. More information on signing up for the Virtual Clubhouse can be found here.
It’s impossible to know how or when the COVID-19 pandemic will end. When it does, everything will slowly return to a new normal, and all aspects of our lives will be influenced by this collective experience. Between now and then, our responsibilities include helping our children navigate through an uncertain world that includes school-from-home. Although it is clearly harder than most expected, as parents we are rising to the challenge to help our children continue to learn and develop. These efforts will make a meaningful difference when our children finally return to the classroom.
Check out more great tips for parents and other BGCSF stories here!
*BGCSF recognizes that some families may not have access to resources. We are here to help during this time. If you need assistance, please feel free to reach out to your local Clubhouse or to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 415-445-5414.
Brian Sauer has been a leader in the education field in the Bay Area for nearly two decades and has served Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco for five years. He began his career as an SFUSD classroom teacher, where he taught middle and high school courses in Biology and Mathematics.