The Highs and Lows of Remote Learning

Authors: Barbara Knighton, TSBVI Parent

Keywords: remote learning, Zoom meetings, virtual instruction, Texas Families Together, self-care, parent support, Outreach, Covid-19, Multiply Impaired Visually Impaired, MIVI

Abstract: This article follows one family as they reflect on the last several months of remote learning. The author focuses on her experiences, the high points, low points, and how navigating the situation with a team of support has helped them feel empowered in the end.

On March 23, 2020, we began our journey into the uncharted waters of remote learning. This was an exceedingly difficult task given that my son has multiple disabilities and works with several staff members daily for curriculum instruction and related services. Terrified of losing the remarkable progress Joshua made during his first semester at TSBVI, I decided there was no choice but to give it my all. I am not an educator or therapist by profession, so I felt totally out of my element. I have worked with my son in the past, but I’d never received formal coaching in how to teach my son. I relied heavily on the knowledge and expertise of my son’s classroom teacher. Thankfully, she thinks outside-the-box and is very patient. We came up with a working schedule for home that mimicked his regular school day, and off we went.

A teenage boy sits at his kitchen table with an adapted number line and a worksheet with math problems printed on it in large print.

Joshua works math problems using a number line.

The first three weeks were incredibly stressful and filled with adjusting the schedule, closing the gaps, and seeing which lessons worked in a virtual format and which ones did not. We watched educational videos, went on virtual field trips, and completed worksheets. Soon, we began to include Zoom meetings with other TSBVI staff members and related service providers. Joshua really enjoyed his Zoom meetings and was very engaged once we found the topics that interested him. He enjoyed weekly movement sessions with his O&M instructor, a hair brushing routine and show and tell with the residential staff, and the weekly music session with his fine arts teacher. He even began to sing the occasional word! Without the distraction of any classmates, Joshua became solely involved with the task at hand. He participated in a full school day with up to four Zoom meetings a day.

A teenage boy sits at his kitchen table in front of an open laptop. He faces a screen with the Zoom classroom open, looking at a teacher and two male peers.

Joshua joins his class for a Zoom lesson.

Joshua is unable to complete his work independently, so his school days were my school days as well. Unfortunately, this schedule meant that my days turned into ten to twelve hour working days which ultimately caused me to reach a breaking point. I was so grateful to the Outreach Team for providing the Texas Families Together weekly online meetings. This was the outlet I needed to recenter myself and regain control of my physical and mental health. They helped me work through my feelings by listening to my concerns and allowing me to express any frustration, anger, and/or exhaustion. The team and other parents gave me permission to have these feelings, affirmed that they were expected during these times, and helped me understand that self-care needs to be a priority. With the tools they provided me, I was able to have a productive discussion with the classroom teacher about what supports I needed and how to implement them.

I am a perfectionist and was being way too hard on myself. I was so worried about what would happen to my son’s future that I was putting my own physical and mental health in jeopardy. We made it through the ten and a half weeks of remote learning successfully. We learned lots of lessons, with so many new ideas and sharing going on. I am so proud of Joshua, and although it’s hard for me to say, I am proud of the work we put into supporting him during this time. We all showed endurance, perseverance, patience, and most of all we helped Joshua maintain his love for learning. I am forever grateful to the TSBVI staff, not only for supporting my son’s needs but my needs as well. We hope to take what we’ve learned and apply it to our new school year as we continue our journey through remote learning.

A teenage boy sits at his kitchen table with a big smile in front of his open laptop.

Joshua is ready to work!

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