Sat | Jun 6, 2020

An uphill task as parents learn to become teachers - As schools remain closed, students put patience, creativity to the test

Published:Tuesday | April 7, 2020 | 12:00 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Kimberley Cummings supervises her 14-year-old son, Maleek Chin, who attends Kingston College, as he catches up on his lessons at home in Albion, St Thomas, yesterday.
Patricia Smith assists her six-year-old daughter, Maurissa, with some schoolwork yesterday. With the closure of schools due to the coronavirus pandemic, many parents are now supervising their children’s studies at home.
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With schools closing more than three weeks ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of Jamaican parents are finding it challenging to keep their children on track with lessons at home as teachers work out alternative arrangements to deliver lessons.

Just before loading up his motor car to head home to Trelawny from Heartease in St Thomas yesterday, hotel musician Edward Smith admitted to The Gleaner that COVID-19 has opened his eyes to the struggles teachers face during regular school.

Smith had taken his sons Skye and Luke to spend some time with their grandmother in St Thomas, one of three parishes yet to record a case of the deadly disease up to yesterday.

He said that having to oversee lessons for his boys, who are at primary and infant levels, has created the opportunity for better bonding with them.

“For me, it is not really a big challenge. ... I don’t believe that everything should be left up to the teachers. I play my part,” he said. “I look at COVID as us working in a positive light. It gives me more time with the children as a parent, just to bond and try to even understand some of the pressures teachers go through. My objective is to make COVID work for us because it doesn’t make sense we complain. We have to learn to adapt to changes.”

Now that his job has taken a blow, as the hotel he worked at closed its doors due to the crippling effect the pandemic has had on the travel and leisure industry, he has a lot of time to help them with their studies, especially the younger Luke, who needs more attention.

“Luke’s schedule is a bit more technical than Skye, because Skye can monitor himself. Both my sons’ teachers are proactive. We have a very good communication going,” Smith told The Gleaner.

His sister, Patricia, and her three children – who attend infant, primary and high schools, respectively – said it was a challenge getting her two sons and daughter to focus.

She said that her son in high school constantly complains that he learns better at school than at home and her daughter doesn’t like the idea of having to study all the time in the comfort of her home.

Additionally, Patricia said that she is forking out more money for food alone for her older son than she would give him on a normal school day.

“This costs me more than lunch money. The big one gets like $1,000 to go to school and sometimes he takes home $400. When I calculate it, him run about $1,200 a day,” she said.

Keeping him on track with his lessons is another challenge.

“It has been tedious because I left school over 20 years ago. For the one in high school, we have a WhatsApp group and they send the work on a daily basis as well, and they mark the register at 3 o’clock every day, we should write that we received the work or it has been done, “ she shared.

Kimberley Cummings, who resides in Albion in St Thomas, has a 14-year-old son who attends Kingston College, but it’s her three-year-old daughter who puts her patience to the test.

“Initially, it was crazy because she is used to a structure and she doesn’t have that structure right now, so she was a little bit more active and harder to control. She was demanding and wanted to watch TV all the time and then after a while, I figured out that she needed structure, so I created a schedule and that has helped,” Cummings said.

“The school actually sends information on what we can teach them, like which letters to give her and the sounds. You go through the books, and show her the letters sometimes. But she knows I am a not a regular teacher, so I have to take her outside, walk around the back and show her the trees and tell her what letter the name of each tree starts with,” Cummings explained in describing one of the creative methods she has had to employ.

“I make it engaging and then I would give her a snack and then I would put on something educational to watch and then she watches whatever she wants after that. I find that I end up giving her a lot more screen time than I would like to. Otherwise, I wouldn’t get time to do what I want to do.”

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com