Play hard or go home’, But... I am at home!!!

I love games, my children love games; we are a game-loving family! Games bring us together, teach us about choices, chances and consequences, and help us to grow in character. I’ve never referred to Remote Teaching or Remote Learning as a game, but there are many elements of teaching remotely and learning at home that are similar to a game. But which game? Choose any game and there is a parallel. Monopoly - players go around and around the board in a repetitive motion, stopping frequently, sometimes being caught out for `breaking the law’ and having to pay the consequence. Connect Four - sometimes there is a consistent sequence, a pattern, and then there is that unexpected drop of a coloured chip that disrupts any sense of order and it’s `game over.’ Soccer - it is a team sport and the team must work together for a positive outcome.

Teaching remotely and having my own children learn remotely has sometimes been a game of survival and there have been days that have paralleled Monopoly, Connect Four and Soccer. There has been repetition, stopping and starting, breaking of rules, consequences for trying to follow the rules, changes to the rules, disappointments, winning, losing and lots of team-playing.

Throughout this season, we have tried our best to play as a team, where our team (family) have worked beautifully to `win the goal.’ Just like any competitive game, some days are successful and the strategies and rules that are implemented are a huge `win.’ On other days, the same strategies have been tried and applied and it has been a case of `each man for himself’ in getting through what needs to be accomplished.

From one day to the next, the level of survival varies. On some days, survival looks like children sitting at laptops, engaging in class meetings, completing set tasks, asking relevant questions and remembering what needs to be done in which order and at what time. On other days, survival is arriving at morning tea and not opening a laptop again or doing anything school-related for the remainder of the day because food (and not learning), equals survival in that moment. On some days, bed time can’t come quickly enough and on other days, there aren’t enough daylight hours to do all that we’d like.

Teaching remotely has been a `game’ of balance; a fine balance of keeping in touch with my own students, planning for their educational growth and ensuring they are mentally and emotionally healthy, whilst maintaining the same within my home. If success is measured by immediate outcomes, I have failed miserably. I am grateful that learning new skills, training, practising, trying strategies and working as a team are all a part of this game-parallel of teaching remotely. `Failures’ can teach so many lessons and help to learn new ways of doing and new ways of `playing.’

A couple of weeks ago, when things were really hard-going, I was chatting to my own parents about the challenges and the rewards of working and learning at home. Being brought up in a soccer-loving family, my parents suggested a strategy that might help manage the fine balance of concentrating on the tasks that needed to be completed during the work day, whilst setting boundaries and encouraging independence in my own children.

During a game of soccer, red and yellow cards are used as a means to discipline players for misconduct throughout the game. A yellow card is used to caution players, whilst a red card results in the player’s dismissal from the playing field. So, I introduced yellow and red cards into my remote teaching and remote learning time at home, for myself and my children. I discussed with my children why we were introducing the cards, and explained that I have an important job to do, that requires me to focus. Whilst not dismissing the importance of their learning, we talked about there being moments that I would not be available for them and the things that they could do whilst they were waiting. The simple strategy of using yellow cards and red cards meant that there would be less interruption and more consideration. So, when I am in a meeting or intensely working on content for my students, and my own children approach my home office door, I hold up a yellow card to say, `I am not available and this is a gentle reminder.’ If (and when!) they approach again, I hold up a red card to say, `There will be a consequence for you interrupting because you have already been reminded.’ Interestingly, one of my children requested that we introduce a green card, as a means of gaining permission to come in to my working space and to ask a question, talk about a task, receive a hug or to offer food! So, we now have a three-card system in place for our `game’ of Remote Learning and Remote Teaching. It works for us. It helps us to follow rules, to be considerate, to keep sane, to prioritise and use time wisely.

So far today, I have used the yellow card once and I have used the green card twice. At the end of the day, my children will be congratulated for their practising of boundaries, and for learning independence. We’ll all be glad that today’s `game’ is over and that a new day of `game playing’ will begin tomorrow.