“We receive a lot of information every day, coming from different channels, every teacher has his own method, I feel unable to help my children.” The suffering is palpable in Adrien*, the father of Bernese Jura. Like him, many parents find themselves helpless when faced with the challenge of homeschooling, overwhelmed by the amount of work or the complexity of the tasks. Cantonal departments of public education may repeat that it is not about improvising teachers, simply keeping track of the work to be done is sometimes a headache.
While the confederation confirmed on Wednesday that the school year will indeed be validated, uncertainty remains over the length of the suspension. Some parents are afraid of not being able to keep the length.
Lack of time, computer equipment or even technical and language skills: many factors hinder the mission of school supervision for parents. For Julie, a 35-year-old academic from Vaux, “the programs on offer are only realistic for parents who don’t work remotely or who can take turns to support their children”.
Asked to work at home, the young woman, who also has her own business, takes care of her two children alone. Every day, Julie is given a school program, “half of which is optional”, but which occupies each child for about three hours a day. “Because they are small, they need explanations, instructions and need to be constantly guided in their tasks,” she explains. With my very demanding professional activity, I do not have enough time to lead them.
Since schools closed on March 13, the authorities have slowed down: no new acquisitions or exams, only revisions. However, the workload remains too much for Camille*, a mother of a 4.5-year-old who sees her first year at school turned upside down. “The teacher puts pre-writing sheets in our mailbox and sends suggestions for optional activities every day, including weekends,” says the young Vodoaz. Even if it starts with a good intention, I find this way of doing things invasive. However, she knows that this zeal also stems from pressure from parents worried that their child is not progressing at the expected rate.
“Keep in touch”
In fact, distance school is also new for teachers, who had to urgently adapt, especially at the elementary level, where until now no online learning structure existed. “Teachers struggle to do well and connect with their students,” says Francesca Marchesini, president of the Geneva Pedagogical Society. They prefer to give enough work to avoid the fastest students running out; parents should not feel obligated to do everything.
Although it is now a question of “consolidating achievements”, the unionist notes the ingenuity of teachers who do not hesitate to experiment with new playful and creative teaching methods, such as videos or participatory texts. “Given the existing ambiguity, the institution had to trust us; I hope that some initiatives will remain after the crisis.
A source of stress for most parents, homeschooling is “mission impossible” for illiterate people, as the Literacy Association recently pointed out. Such is the case with Adrien, father of two children aged 12 and 14. Like one in six adults in Switzerland, he has difficulty reading and understanding simple texts. “First we had to familiarize ourselves with the hardware and install the various computer programs, which made us waste time,” says Adrienne. While her young son, who is in primary school, receives papers at home, the eldest has to upload documents online and communicate via chat. With just one home computer, the task quickly becomes complicated. “Luckily the school recently lent us one.”
For Adrien, the content of the French exercises remains the biggest challenge. “The fear of being wrong creates psychological pressure and a colossal waste of energy,” he confides. When I don’t understand, I have to believe only what my eldest son tells me. Because he is failing in school, the teenager struggles to motivate himself. “We quickly realized that he was behind, he didn’t show us all his homework,” says the father of the family. Fortunately, there are possible contacts with teachers, even if they are in high demand.
For his young son, the transition to secondary school is on the cards today. The current situation is causing him great disappointment,” regrets Adrien. Three weeks after closing schools, fatigue is palpable. “Werth shows up. While children need to be motivated a little more every day, keeping up the pace will be very difficult. At the end of the day, we’re all stiff.
Fear of “social gap”
The president of Famco (Geneva Federation of Associations of Orientation Cycle Masters), Julien Nicolet, fears that the “social gap” is widening. “Depositing worksheets and giving instructions, the technique can work well if students are comfortable with the material,” he says. On the other hand, failure is guaranteed for weaker students who sometimes lack autonomy, motivation, even equipment. It is not uncommon for students to work only on their cell phones.
In fact, keeping in touch with the whole class is a challenge for the teacher. “Some students have contacted by phone, but they don’t always provide the requested work, explains Julien Nicolet. Teachers should be behind them at all times to make sure no one lifts.
Although “speedometer is still far from being reached”, the union recently launched a wide-ranging consultation with teachers to identify flaws in the system. What if schools remain closed for the rest of the year? “Apparently we will comply with the health requirements, replies Julien Nicolet, but at the educational level the result is unsatisfactory. Only the best students advance.
* Assumed name