Faculty pulling double duty as teachers and parents

May 8, 2020

VINCENNES, Ind. – Educators often think of their students as their children. These days their own children are also their students.

Some Vincennes University faculty members are pulling double duty in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. They are teaching online classes, while also helping their children with schoolwork. All from home.

Social distancing practices have moved education online and students from kindergarten through higher education are learning virtually. VU faculty members like English Associate Professor Matt Groneman are balancing work duties and parenting.

Matt Groneman, VU English Professor

With his wife working as a nurse, navigating his kids' education is mostly Groneman’s responsibility. He helps his first-grade son and fifth-grade daughter with writing assignments, science experiments using household materials, and crafts as part of their routine and also serves as a math and social science tutor. Keeping to a schedule is key, according to Groneman.

When it comes to his students, Groneman hosts virtual office hours, grades coursework, critiques drafts, and chats with students via video conferencing.

“I am also available to students anytime by text or email, Students have my phone number, and so they can also call me,” he said. “Basically, I take care of the kids, then schedule the rest of my time to devote to my students at VU!”

The shift to homeschooling has parents and students all over appreciating and recognizing the hard work and dedication of educators, who have switched the way they carry out their duties of conducting learning experiences but continue to foster learning, provide emotional support, and be there in all kinds of ways for their students while doing the same for their own children.

Rick Kribs, VU Assistant Provost

"The COVID pandemic has presented numerous challenges for VU students and faculty, alike, including the addition of personal expectations,” Assistant Provost for Curriculum and Instruction Rick Kribs said. “Many faculty and staff who are working remotely are also playing a supplemental role in their children's e-learning. Facilitating and assisting with e-learning while remaining attentive and productive to their own classes shows the level of commitment that our faculty have for education. These challenging times will not suppress the heart of a teacher!"

A typical day for Law Enforcement Program Chair and Associate Professor Cara Gilmore begins very early and ends incredibly late. She is a mother of four and her husband is considered essential. That makes her their children’s primary caregiver. Gilmore helps her daughters in third and fifth grade with schoolwork. She also takes care of her younger children who are ages one and three.

Cara Gilmore, VU Law Enforcement Program Chair and Professor

 

It’s not uncommon for Gilmore to work until midnight, advising students, recording lectures, grading, inputting assignments, responding to emails, and completing other tasks.

“While it is a lot of late nights at the office, it has to be done. I owe it to my students and my children to give them all my full attention. Someone asked me during all of this, how I manage to do it all. I told them, I hadn't really thought about it. I just do it. It has to be done, so you do what you have to do,” Gilmore said.

 

Kristin Jessee, VU Psychology Professor

Psychology Professor Kristin Jessee admits to experiencing moments of complete joy and stress as she teaches remotely and schools her 3-year-old son.

“I hate to admit it, but the reality of this season brought lots of extra screen time. We spent a lot of time doing crafts, playing with his toys, and completing various preschool tasks. There were lots of messes and pillow forts. I tried to keep a consistent schedule with meals and nap times. While I worked, he would pretend to work beside me, or find some other task to keep himself entertained.”

Psychology Professor and Psychology/Sociology/Social Work Department Chair Hope Clausman explained she has experienced many challenges this semester, but hers don’t seem to compare to those of other colleagues.

Hope Clausman, VU Psychology/Sociology/Social Work Department Chair and Professor

 

“Their ability to multi-task (or multi-teach) has been amazing,” Clausman said. “They are teaching their own children in addition to their VU students, and they are doing so with grit and grace. While I know they’ve had to make major adjustments and have experienced overwhelming moments, I am so proud of their strength, coping skills, and focus on quality virtual services for our students. They are positive role models for all of us, especially our VU students.”

Jessee suggests educators who are teaching students as well as their own kids is to take it day by day.

 “It sounds kind of cliche, but practice being present in each moment,” she said. “Play is the language of children. If you find yourself schooling children while teaching remotely, take in the moments to truly play with your children. The moments of eye connection, cuddles, and laughter brought great heart connection for my son. His face would light up, and I knew he felt valued and loved.”

Gilmore’s advice to educators who are balancing online instruction and looking after their children is to hang in there.

“It may not be how everyone else does it. It may not be easy, but everyone's situation is different, so do what works best for you, your students, and your children. You may not be able to hold live Zoom lectures or respond to emails during the day or you may have children dropping in on your Zoom meetings for work, but that doesn't make you any less effective, or any less of an educator. As long as your work is getting done, your students are learning, and your children are learning, the time of day and method isn't what is important, it is the knowledge you are passing on,” Gilmore said.

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