With COVID19 our children face more dangers than ever before. This pandemic has many faces: health, economy, and mental health. Our children need to study remotely and we need to support their efforts. The crisis can also be a great opportunity. I will try to explain how we can make this work.
Before we go into discussion and analysis, I want to make a disclaimer. I released a new masterclass dealing with teaching on Thinkific. The 80% discount code for the 80 people to buy it: TEACHING80. If you are not sure, still visit the course. The entire section 9 dealing with remote learning is free to preview. This is my gift to you.
Both Anna and I used to teach at the University, coach professionally, and mentor young students for years. Anna is actually teaching and overseeing other teachers. So possibly you will want to pay attention. Maybe argue with us (I will publish guest posts), but don’t ignore what we have to say.
Triple your active learning by teaching others, double the safety of your learning environment, and double your leadership potential. Teach, mentor, coach, and acquire professional tools to do that.
Mentoring our own children
The biggest issue in remote learning: the teachers are not there to help. The teachers of my own kids ask me to lower my expectations. We need to teach our own kids because the teachers cannot. Fortunately, I know pretty much everything, at least at the level required in high-school. However, as I teach my own kids I discover small holes in my own education and memory. For example, yesterday I did not remember which half of the heart deals with oxygen-enriched blood.
As we teach we learn much better than ever before. Every knowledge we have becomes active. Do not miss this opportunity. If your kids are smart, provide them the opportunity to teach you.
Remote learning hell
My kids need to sit eight hours every day in front of Zoom. This is a kind of everyday hell. When Anna teaches 1:1 courses via Skype all the students are happy, engaged, and enriched. With my kids’ zoom sessions, learning used to look like Chinese water torture. We developed some tools to deal with the issue (in fact I share them in my course free of charge), but some element of stress is real. Psychologists call this “zoom fatigue” and thousands of new researches are conducted in this area. Simply nobody had to teach entire nations remotely ever before.
This is worse in a lockdown. If there is no lockdown, we can easily go to a picnic and spend some time in nature detoxing. Now both my wife and I have cards of essential workers allowing us to go to work and back. Not to have fun and not to take kids with us.
The best thing we can do is brainstorming together, building small projects, and learning new subjects. Brainstorming moves the control back into our hands, reduces stress, and introduces joy. My kids have an idea for a patent, and for obvious reasons I cannot reveal it before we file. Some of the relevant work is online, but at least it is better than spending days upon days playing Minecraft.
Some of the brainstormings is musical. My kids love their guitars and are working on a new repertoire. If you bought my guitar course when it was with an 80% discount, now is a good time to review it.
To be honest, I used a lot of the remote working time to write and record scripts for my masterclasses, so a lot of the creative work with my kids was not done by me. Fortunately, my wife Anna is the best teacher I know, so they are in good hands.
Learning as I teach
Usually, I teach my kids from my memory. Math and physics, chemistry and biology, languages, and history I know good enough for what they need to know. But I do not teach like school teachers. I provide the underlying reasons.
The roman empire did not decline due to debauchery, it simply could not recover after the Antonine plague; and when Justinian almost rebuilt the empire another plague hit. This is not educational. There is no moral message. Teachers do not like to teach the truth when there is no moral undertone. I do not care, as I teach the truth as I understand it. And if I do not know the truth myself, I research it. My son asked if this plague means that China will replace USA as the world’s superpower, and I honestly said that no one knows the answer.
As I have to teach my kids I am very grateful to my own teachers, the good ones. I had a great math teacher when I was very young, and a great tutor on physics when I was in high school. My history and literature teachers in high school were better than I deserved, and I understood their messages only a decade after graduation.
When I got good teachers, they were really great. Anna did not have as many great teachers like me, and she often discovers holes in her education. My kids definitely have some good teachers, the old guard, who used to teach in the Soviet Union. Their children will not have such teachers, and I am somewhat concerned about the future.
While the school teachers are kind of standardized, the extracurricular activities are managed by coaches. There are very few great coaches, and many bad ones. Coaches routinely increase the children’s risk, pushing them in the least appropriate time. I find that I need to coach half of my kids’ coaches to get some reasonable progress. I am not very happy about it.
It’s not just me winning in chess against my kid’s coach after three decades of not touching the board. The whole system is skin deep. Every motion, every sound has some deep underlying reason. The classical training involves learning this reasoning and perfecting it. My coaches knew that. My kids’ coaches do with them something. And then do it again and again. How does that motivate my kids to work at home alone, when the extracurricular activities are closed?
When I studied, my main motivation was understanding the secrets of the games. I was not allowed to compete for easy trophies, not to be spoiled by easy success. My kids are moved by getting too many easy trophies. When the trophies end, so does the motivation. This is not professional coaching. I do not really know how to call it. A babysitter? And these are the best coaches in their schools. There were just a couple of great exceptions: horse riding guide and guitar teacher, but these guys were professionals outside the regular coaching systems who coached as a personal favor to me.
Secure learning environment
When my kids learned in their environments I was very comfortable not to question anything. Now they learn remotely, and I can ask myself provocative questions without being deterred. The answers are frightening.
Teachers and coaches routinely ruin kids in different ways. Daydreaming is great for creativity, but what teacher can tolerate it in a class? Asking deep questions is a great analytical skill, but teachers are embarrassed by the questions they cannot answer.
Tough coaches often have a system where they feel a child needs to be broken and then rebuilt for the standards of the system. This is not safe! It can be traumatic. Moreover, if the coach is at least slightly indecent, this can have a very bad effect. And if everything works fine, and the trust is well earned, there is an incentive to get into high-stress scenarios in the future. And this is dangerous.
In fact, I added to my course several sections dealing with common mistakes and security…
Not all of my memories are great. In 2010 I hired a business coach for Anna to develop her business. The coach taught Anna to get out of the comfort zone, including public speaking. Anna is a great teacher, but she works with people, not presentations. After half a year Anna got depressed and closed the business… I had to take the thing into my hands, meet Jonathan Levy and reopen the business several years later.
Bad coaching can be easily avoided. We should not trust coaches blindly. I do my best to select and coach my kid’s coaches. I cannot select their teachers but occasionally we have very long discussions. My second son is very gifted and a great student, so he occasionally gets bored and daydreams in school. His school principal almost marked him as a retard, and we need to use external experts to change her opinion.
If the parents trust the system, anything can happen. I do not want to take the risk. I have the tools to improve the outcome. If you are parents, teachers, coaches, so should you!