The New Normal for CRLS Educators: Teaching While Parenting

Azusa Lippit, Around School Editor

Over the past month, since Cambridge schools closed due to the Coronavirus outbreak, CRLS faculty have been diligently adjusting to holding online classes through video call platforms and to providing their students with other assignments to be completed at home. This process, so different from how CRLS teachers have worked in the past, requires time and space that can be hard to come by for CRLS faculty with young children. These teachers find themselves spending eight to ten more hours a day at home than usual, and must balance an online teaching schedule with caring for their kids. US History teacher Ms. Rachel Williams-Giordano lamented this shift in the school year, stating, “I really miss being at school and being with students. I miss all of [my students] so much that it’s embarrassing to even admit.”

Mr. Patrick Kantlehner, a 9th grade health teacher, has been able to establish a rhythm with his wife and his three-year-old daughter. “At first my daughter didn’t understand when my wife was ‘at work’ and that she couldn’t interact with her [during that time],” he said. “Now we close off one door, and my wife pretends that she’s going to work; after that, the door is closed and we can’t go in that room.” 

Ms. Williams-Giordano has also found a schedule that works for her and her two sons, ages three and five. “I’m a firm believer in trying to keep things as normal as possible,” Ms. Giordano explained, “because, with this situation, it’s easy to panic and succumb to one’s fears. We’re doing two hours of school per day … my husband is considered an essential worker, so he isn’t at home with me, so [my sons] have been at each other’s throats, and then best friends.”

“I really miss being at school and being with students. I miss all of [my students] so much that it’s embarrassing to even admit.”

— Ms. Williams-Giordano

Ms. Adelaide Porreca and her husband Mr. Tony Porreca are both CRLS faculty, teaching chemistry and English respectively. Their soon-to-be two-year-old son is usually enrolled in the CRLS daycare center First Steps for a large portion of the day. “We’re doing our best to replicate the schedule they have there,” Ms. Porreca described, “but it’s really difficult to do that with him while we’re also trying to work at the same time. We would usually drop him off in the morning at around 7:30 and then picked him up at around 3 or 3:15.” Ms. Porreca particularly noted how much she appreciates the work that the CRLS daycare staff do. “We just have one kid at home and they have eight toddlers and four or five infants all at once. I don’t know how they do it, honestly.” Additionally, having to manage two CRLS virtual teaching schedules in one household may prove to be a challenge for the family in the coming weeks. Ms. Porreca elaborated, “He’s growing so much every day, and we’re lucky to be able to see that—I’m just hoping that the work expectations don’t become totally unrealistic, because we’re going to have a hard time handling all of that if [Mr. Porreca] and I have to hold online classes at the same time.” 

While teachers have to spend much of their time planning for online classes, many teachers have found consolation in getting to spend more time with their kids. World History teacher Caroline Berz, who has an eight-year-old and an eleven-year-old, was able to walk her younger son through his online class process. “The meeting that [the second graders] had was super cute,” she shared. “The kids were all super excited to see each other. They were all really surprised that they got to be included because they’ve been seeing other people’s parents and siblings working remotely. Any time I get to spend with my kids is awesome.” Mr. Kantlehner echoed this sentiment, saying, “This is essentially time that I would have never had otherwise, so [my daughter] is at a stage of development in her life that is unique to where she’s currently at. We’re bonding at a certain level that, to me, is a massive silver lining.” Ms. Giordano agreed, stating, “As horrific as COVID-19 has been for global society, the most beautiful thing that has come out of it for me is all my interaction with my kids and also the relationship that my sons are developing with each other which is something they would not have had.”

Many people’s attitudes towards teachers and towards their own families may change as a result of this period. “I think people are gaining this greater appreciation of what it is that teachers do: the planning that goes into it and the skill set that goes into it,” Mr. Kantlehner shared. He continued, “I also hope that a lot of families are going to walk away from this with a greater appreciation for their own family because they’re being forced to spend time together and [are] finding out how important that really is.”