It is no understatement that COVID-19 has drastically altered the daily lives of the student body, but for many professors this change is twofold. Having to adapt an entire semester’s worth of assignments and assessments to remote learning has already been proved difficult enough. But for Senior Lecturer in the Department of Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology Leah Roesch, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry Matthew Weinschenk and Research Assistant Professor at Rollins School of Public Health Lauren Christiansen-Lindquist taking care of their young children while teaching at home has proven to be the most challenging.
The switch to remote learning has not only impacted the way professors teach, but as they now share a workspace full-time with children and other adults in the household, their home life has transformed. From coordinating their schedules with their spouses to buying noise-canceling headphones, these faculty have learned to adjust to two new pedagogical systems and full-time jobs.
With a pair of nine-year-old twins at home, Roesch has tailored her work schedule to accommodate their online schooling needs. Her children attend virtual classes from about 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a few breaks in between.
“I try to not schedule many meetings during that time because, although they are fairly independent at nine years old, they often need help with transitioning,” Roesch said.
Roesch said she has limited time to herself in the morning and must delay larger tasks, such as grading and lesson planning, until the afternoon. She’s only able to fit in short meetings, answer a few emails or jot down some teaching ideas while her kids are in class. Roesch considers this complication to be one of the biggest downsides to teaching from home.
“It’s hard to have the time to do oversight with my kids’ school, get my own stuff done and still find time to just have the family hanging out,” Roesch said. “The work-life balance is just out of whack.”
Roesch noted she must also consider her husband’s schedule and find times in which they can alternate supervision of the twins’ remote learning. For example, she moved one of her classes to 8 a.m. because her husband’s schedule allows him to supervise the children in the morning, permitting Roesch to give her undivided attention to her students.
Despite the various challenges she has had to navigate this semester, Roesch remains positive and is thankful to have a job that lets her work from home.
“I do like being able to see [my children] more,” Roesch said. “We have lunch together where we all shut down our computers and … sit outside.”
Similar to Roesch, Weinschenk has also made adjustments to balance his teaching responsibilities with his children’s remote learning. Weinschenk has designated a room in his home for his children’s learning while he works from a home office a few rooms away. Although they are not in the same room while working, he is always available to help his children — a second grader and a fifth grader — whenever they require assistance.
“I get them snacks, … lunch and help them with anything they might have, especially the second grader,” Weinschenk said. “She’s only seven years old, so she needs help with the technology, … [like] posting some materials or watching the asynchronous materials.”
Although Weinschenk has instructed his children to not interrupt him when he is teaching, they still sometimes need his help in the middle of his lectures.
“I’m right near the art supplies of the house, so they often sneak behind me or crawl behind me to grab some paper from the printer,” Weinschenk said. “During a Zoom session, I had breakout rooms and … I had to get [my daughter] watercolor paints for her art project.”
Weinschenk stated he initially struggled to work in such proximity to his children due to their noisy habits. This meant office hours had to be conducted during the children’s designated television time in the afternoon. Nevertheless, noise-canceling headphones ensure no interruptions.
“During office hours, I usually put the noise-canceling headphones on,” Weinschenk said. “They may be practicing some music or watching television, so the headphones work well in separating me from that because it can be loud.”
While the noise and disturbances can be cumbersome, Weinschenk noted that he enjoys being around his children while they attend online school.
“Hearing how they are being taught is nice,” Weinschenk said. “I think their teachers are doing a great job so far. I know that they are being taught well and being cared for.”
As a mother of three, Christiansen-Lindquist also acknowledged the benefits of being able to observe her children during their online schooling. In fact, she has come to consider applying what her children’s teachers do to her own work.
“I get to see how their teachers model online teaching, so thinking about some things that work well for them … has helped me think about the experience my students have,” Christiansen-Lindquist said. “So the things I find frustrating about communication, for example, I try to see what I can do to make that better in my classes.”
Without the need to depart for school so early as before, Christiansen-Lindquist and her children have remodeled their morning schedules to take full advantage of having more time together.
“We get up in the morning and we all have breakfast together,” Christiansen-Lindquist said. “My first grader starts his class at 8 a.m. every day, so I get him set up. My fourth grader is a little bit more independent so he is able to navigate his work a little on his own.”
In order to keep track of her children’s numerous live sessions, Christiansen-Lindquist religiously utilizes the alarm function on her phone. She has a separate alarm that notifies her five minutes before each session.
Similar to Roesch, Christiansen-Lindquist’s husband also helps her balance her work schedule with caring for their children. Her husband returns from work at 11 a.m. and switches roles with her, allowing Christiansen-Lindquist to work.
“He takes care of them while I am teaching,” Christiansen-Lindquist said. “Sometimes things get rowdy and you can hear the kids upstairs. … I am very aware that I am still at home and teaching with my kids here, but it helps a lot to have him taking over those duties.”
Nevertheless, Christiansen-Lindquist thinks it’s important to appreciate the silver linings, such as being able to spend more quality time with her family. She’s grateful for not having to rush out of the house in the mornings to get her kids to school and values being more aware of what they are learning. Most of all, Christiansen-Lindquist considers herself and her family lucky.
“As hard as this is, I recognize how blessed and privileged we are,” Christiansen-Lindquist said. “This pandemic has certainly affected us all, … [but] there are folks who have it a whole lot worse.”