Received a message from a father whose excessive travel related work had him missing out on his children’s growing up years. Now aged 4 and 8, he’s missed his daughter’s graduation from pre primary years to primary school years ago, and as he admitted, most part of all the developmental milestones that his son has crossed.
Lockdown for him meant re-adjusting and being coped; he switched to virtual work after some patience and today, he cannot imagine why he spent so much time travelling for a half an hour meeting. The reason for this discussion is that as an entrepreneur, I had initiated Work From Home as a schedule for my team years ago simply because the commute time for most people would be 3 hours to office and 3 hours back home, and thereafter the zillion house hold responsibilities. I always worried that they would be exhausted and tired and not give the company that created content for schools, trained teachers and helped owners set up schools enough passion and energy.
He always told me – it is impossible to stay forced at home, and it will lead to ‘slacking’ and time-sheets do not work! Corona happened and in his own admission, 3 months at home, he has been working 24×7 and puts in more hours simply because he balances it out. He’s well rested, and fit cause he packs in 7 hours of sleep and some exercises now, eating meals on time and home cooked ones and not the take-away options and suddenly productivity levels are up there. He’s admitted he was too quick to judge and stands corrected.
But most importantly, on Father’s Day he wanted to share what his children’s school had planned before the ban happened!
After a careful orientation virtually explaining to parents what to expect in the virtual schooling sessions before the sessions commenced two weeks ago (an orientation he had attended for the first time in his life), as parents they had complete clarity that the ‘learning’ would be activity based, helping the children to become independent, (but activities would involve parents and school was happy to consult parents who were working and unable to manage this), and the focus on life skills would be tracing the ‘syllabus’ content (this he admitted comforted most parents) – Language Arts, Numeracy, Environment Exploration, Fine & Gross Motor development incorporating theatre and drama, art and crafts, coding and sports!! He was blown away by the meticulous planning and explanation about eye-break sessions, tuning in, how to set routine guidance, loo breaks including how to communicate to the school for connectivity challenges, meeting project deadlines etc.
‘Curious George’ (as he calls himself these days as his daughter and son insist on these Read Aloud time with Papa), he attended a 1 hour school session when his kids were in ‘virtual’ school. Admittedly the little boy was a bit restless, and he marvelled how the teacher, aware of his child’s tendency would keep him engaged by assigning tasks constantly while still managing the other 18 students in session and on task. They were in both classes talking about the upcoming Father’s Day but he shared in detail about his son’s class and his experience – discussions about why we celebrate it, who started this?, ‘father’ in different languages, and the teacher drew up a bar graph with Dad, Daddy, Papa, Baba, Abba, Pop (to remind them that Father is a ‘global’ word that we customise depending on our family – and then it becomes Dad, Daddy etc and in this class who calls their father what?!) what it means to have a father in their lives, what are some of the fun moments spent, and he was impressed how the teacher linked a Father’s Day event to English, Math with stories, rhymes and vocab games – Happy Father’s Day – as a lotto game, and enabling children to identify the sound, letter, counting the letters, ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ etc. This virtual discussion about Love and Father’s Day culminated in an art and craft creation – card using origami techniques (so avoiding scissors, glue etc) and ‘home-work’ in the form of an activity that they would do with their fathers – find 5 things in the house that float, and five things in the house that float. The children were told, also hold the objects that sink and the ones that float in your hands and remember to tell us if they were heavy or light? This he said was amazing way to weave in context to the event and yet cover ‘Sink and Float’ as a concept. The teacher told them when they get their ‘home-work’ in she would reveal a ‘surprise’ (he loved the motivating tone!)
His new found appreciation for the effort, creativity and passion in which the teacher got her to-do done in a timely and engaging manner needed a ‘shout-out’. And knowing my love for these wow moments, he thought of writing to me.
Rohan, was surprised to read news paper reports about a ban on online classes in Maharashtra. He asked me why? Because what he experienced as a father was deep appreciation for engaging his otherwise spirited son in a manner that made learning fun.
Happy Father’s Day cards are priceless to him as he admitted and thanks the teacher for initiating this with his children, he admits that ‘we’ did not really celebrate these moments as children and no one really made us understand the roles that parents play in our lives. And he plans the Sink & Float homework completion today as the Father-Child activity, and cannot wait for the next class and session!
I had to remind him the classes are for the children and not him. He promptly said, well here’s a chance to ‘live’ what I did not as a child. On that note … Happy Father’s Day!
It is therefore not about content delivery for us as part of virtual engagements, it is about using activities to make it holistic and real, and ensure that learning is seamless and uninterrupted. It is about unleashing their ability to think, explore and channelise their energies in meaningful ways. Please do not limit online education to screen-time. It limiting and simply cruel!