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Parenting in a Pandemic

By News and Feature Editor Ahna Rader

While students are learning how to be scholars at home, educators are learning how to teach like they’ve never taught before. And, many of them have families. Multitasking is never easy, but parenting in a pandemic? For many educators it’s 24/7. 

As James Dillard faces 20 high school math students on a Zoom call for precalculus class, his daughter approaches his desk, and asks, “Dad, can I use the bathroom?” It’s a natural kid thing, but Dillard is preoccupied trying to manage twenty high school students on a Zoom call. The line between work and home begins to blur. Dillard has two children, ages of five and seven, who participate in distance learning at Lakes Elementary.

“It is very hard to be both a good parent and a good teacher at the same time,” said Dillard, a Timberline math teacher who is parenting from his classroom. “My kids are still at an age where they sometimes need help when they are doing their online school work, and when they are finished they crave my attention.” 

Dillard is now not only at work full time, but he’s also on “dad duty” at all times. 

He said, “This means I have to be adept at switching roles like introducing a new problem to my class and then quickly getting them started in their next Zoom session or looking at their artwork that they want to show me.” 

Crystal Garcia, Timberline’s mental health specialist, is working from home where she is responsible for five kids during a usual work day. In addition to doing her job, Garcia now has to become a hands-on educator for her children, a job she used to shop out to the public school system.

“I’ve always gotten really good feedback from my kids’ teachers that they’re like wonderful angels, or they’re hard workers, but for me, their attention span is really short and they fatigue. I have never taught this, y’know?” Garcia shared. “I have a deeper appreciation for classroom teachers, it’s really hard, I don’t know how they do it with that many kids.” 

Garcia’s renewed appreciation for teachers is genuine, as she continued describing with ardence the discoveries she’s made through her children’s distance education. “I don’t think I ever realized how different the grades are because I have one [child in] elementary, one in middle school and one in high school and they all have different class schedules and requirements and materials and it is very hard! Before it was like you drop them off at one time and pick them up at one time unless something goes on, and this is a very different experience that I haven’t had in my sixteen years of parenting.” 

This role of being both the parent and the teacher is a challenge for many, but to Katie Myrick, parenting in the workplace isn’t new. Myrick’s son, Samuel at the age of 11 is accustomed to spending long hours in the high school library. 

Myrick describes her past when it comes to multitasking childcare and work, “Last spring when we were out, not only did my son not have a place to go, my neighbor’s child goes to private school and she didn’t have a place for him to go, and my niece who was two at the time, her daycare was closed. So what happened is I just stepped up and said ‘Hey, I’m home, they can all come to my house.’ We called it Katie School.” She relayed with a proud grin. 

Parenting in the workplace didn’t exactly come easy to Myerick, her and Samuel have gotten lots of practice finding their “balance.”

“I think a huge advantage that I have that maybe other teachers don’t have is […] Samuel’s been coming with me since he was in kindergarten. He’s already learned that I’m always his mom, but if a student walks in the door, or the phone rings, I’m [the] librarian.” 

Timberline’s educators have taken this challenge in stride, working hard to create a nurturing environment for both their students and their kids. “I get to hang out with them so much.  I don’t usually get to see them until after school.  Now we can joke and play games together during our work breaks.” Dillard said. 

“We are just making memories for the future.”