Surviving and Thriving in the Virtual Classroom


Jarrod E. Stephens

The Ashland Beacon

If you are the parent or guardian of a school-aged student who is currently working in a virtual classroom, this article is for you. As area schools began to roll out their plans for reopening in a virtual manner, the struggles that come along with juggling a home life and schooling became a reality. While there is no perfect solution to the situation and since the governor has recommended that in-person classes not resume until September 28, the only assurance that is truly available is the fact that we are all in the same boat. No school system was totally prepared for what we are experiencing and so just like the schools, parents have had to search for ways to make sure their students get the most out of this less than desirable situation.

   While the virtual classroom cannot be a perfect replacement for the real classroom, getting our kids on a schedule that promotes good sleeping, waking and working habits will help them learn better and be more productive virtually and for when they return to the classroom. A good night’s sleep followed by a healthy breakfast is the first step to getting the kids on the right path for a successful day.

   To get the most out of the virtual school experience you need to be actively involved in your child’s day and create a solid routine for them to adhere to. If your child’s teacher is having “Live” sessions it is important that your child take part if at all possible. Work in a location with limited distractions where the student can sit up and participate in live discussions. Allow the teacher to be the leader just as if the child was in the classroom. Teachers have your child’s best interest in mind as they create and deliver the lessons. Once the class sessions and work is complete get your child up and active. It’s hard enough for a child to sit still at school but when they are in their comfy spot at home it’s even harder. Give them a brain break and let them step away from the computer for a few minutes. As silly as it may seem to say, keep them away from the video games during what your school has defined as school hours. Don’t forget to celebrate their successes once milestones are met.

Whenever an issue arises and a technological roadblock appears, remember that your child’s school is staffed with professionals who will do their best to troubleshoot the issue. Don’t allow your child to give up too easily. I currently have four kids working through the virtual classrooms ranging from first grade to eleventh grade and we run into problems daily but push through them with the help of others. Kids are quite good at playing the “I can’t do it” game whenever they come up against an obstacle. Give them time to work it out. Think about it. When was the last time your child called you into the room because they needed your help with Fortnite or Candy Crush? It typically doesn’t happen because they keep trying. Try to instill the same tenacity into their school work ethic. I’m in no way saying that your elementary student should be able to troubleshoot a technical issue, but don’t allow them to give up when an issue arises. Troubleshooting is a part of our technologically driven world.

   Your first and foremost help when it comes to struggles with virtual learning that you cannot solve is the classroom teacher. Again, remember that these teaching professionals are also sailing in uncharted territory, however rest assured they will do their best to assist you and your student. It is likely that they have already helped someone with the same problem. Speaking from experience, please be as clear and specific with the issue when you contact the teacher.

   So, when you truly have made it to your wit's end and cannot get a resolution to a problem, Google it. As you’ll quickly discover the results will likely point you to another amazing place we all spend too much time in; YouTube. Believe it or not, as unique as you feel that your issue is, there have likely been countless other parents in your same situation and thankfully some of them take the time to post videos to help others.

   As schools continue to provide online instruction, create a network with other parents and even teachers to navigate the virtual world. Remember, the teachers and administrators never chose this course but instead were advised to take it. Visit your school’s website and Facebook page often to watch for special announcements concerning the virtual experience. No matter how long the virtual classroom remains our only option, it is imperative as parents that we do our best to support the students and help them excel through this time.