Daily life takes new turn as many juggle teaching, parenting

Algebra teacher Kathryn Espinosa is adjusting to working at home with her eighth grader and kindergartener.

Earlier+this+month%2C+algebra+teacher+Kathryn+Espinosa+sits+with+her+6-year-old+daughter+Lilly+as+she+works+on+her+kindergarten+homework.+

Submitted by Kathryn Espinosa

Earlier this month, algebra teacher Kathryn Espinosa sits with her 6-year-old daughter Lilly as she works on her kindergarten homework.

By Kathleen Ortiz, Kingwood Park High School

The schedule that algebra teacher Kathryn Espinosa made for her kindergartner Lilly was not very well received. The six-year-old drew an X through each heart that represented the lessons that she would not do.

Lilly then wrote, “Do no lessons” before making her own schedule. Lilly’s daily list consisted of a workout, relaxation time, lunch, play time and television time.

“The little one, she thinks school’s just a racket,” Mrs. Espinosa said. “She thinks, ‘Why do we even go to school?’ So me trying to get her to do her lessons everyday has been a challenge.”

Mrs. Espinosa is one of many parents all over the world who have been thrown into a whole new job during the coronavirus pandemic: homeschooling. Along with teaching her algebra classes from home, Mrs. Espinosa is helping teach her two daughters, Isabella and Lilly. It’s been a process.

The schedule Algebra teacher Kathryn Espinosa made up for her 6-year-old when distance learning began.

The amount of planning that Mrs. Espinosa had to do to move her classes online made it hard for her to work with Lilly and Isabella the first two weeks they stayed at home.

“I’m the worst homeschool parent, so it was more or less, ‘I need you to leave me alone because I need to take care of my work,’” Mrs. Espinosa said. “So it would be me working all day and then at 9 p.m. going, ‘Oh my gosh, you haven’t even read a book today.’”

It took a lot of work for her to learn all of the technology. She already was videotaping her lessons at school, but she struggled creating the specific assignments she wanted on Schoology. She didn’t want her classes to add stress to her students’ lives. She wanted her distance learning to look as close to her regular teaching as possible. She credits geometry teacher Lauren Reeve with helping her.

Mrs. Espinosa would send a text at 9:30 p.m.

“OK, this is what my assignment looks like,” Mrs. Espinosa would text. “I need it to look exactly like that on that screen. How does that happen?”

Reeve would always help.

As for her own kids, Isabella is an eighth grader at Riverwood Middle School and was receiving new assignments daily the first couple of weeks at home. Mrs. Espinosa said that Isabella had trouble keeping up with all of the work. Eventually her teachers started to scale back on the work they were giving.

The schedule 6-year-old Lilly Espinosa created for herself after seeing the schedule her mom made for her.

“So, Izzy, who’s usually my loner, she’s usually the one that could care less about being around people, is now wishing she was at school around people,” Mrs. Espinosa said. “So, I think she’s having a hard time not being able to see her friends.”

Mrs. Espinosa admits that she’s not really a distance learner either. The couple of classes she took online in college weren’t her best. She was a procrastinator, always the last to comment on discussions. However, now she’s beginning to see how helpful the technology can be and is looking to possibly implement it in at least some of her classes next year.

“It’s not that it was a choice; but now seeing everything, I’m thinking maybe I’ll have pre-AP submit stuff on Schoology because that would be less paper for me to print,” Mrs. Espinosa said. “You could almost make it all online. But I’m still a little old school, so it’s kind of tough for me to say, ‘Let’s just do everything online.’”

Her 8 a.m. Zoom calls with students have been an adjustment. Cats were the topic of conversation during her first Zoom office hours. She misses real interactions with her students in the classroom.

“I’m actually kind of a non-social person myself, but I miss actually interacting with the students,” Mrs. Espinosa said. “Like, actual interaction. I mean despite them sometimes getting on my nerves, I kind of miss that — believe it or not.”

Until she can see her students again, she’s enjoying the real interactions with her family. They now go on daily bike rides.

“My kids are actually playing together,” Mrs. Espinosa said. “I mean it’s video games, but still. They’re actually in the same room, and I don’t hear any screaming or ‘Izzy’s being mean’ or anything like that.”

While the 6-year-old is tolerating her sister, school is a totally different story. Even getting her on an occasional Zoom with her classmates is considered a feat. The first time her mom suggested logging in to chat with her teacher and classmates, Lilly dismissed her.

“Hmmm. I don’t think so,” Lilly told her. “It’s not really my thing.”

This story was originally published on Park Times on April 16, 2020.