On a typical day, Nadia Goode wakes up at 6 a.m. to get herself and her kids ready for school. Goode works for a middle school in Brampton, Ontario, teaching French to grade 7 and 8 students. Now, with schools in Ontario COVID hotspots closed to in-person learning until at least February, she’s teaching from home, at the same time as her four kids—aged 6, 8, 14 and 16—are doing virtual school. Goode’s partner works out of the province, so she’s currently by herself teaching full-time and taking care of her kids.
Ontario’s education minister recently expanded the list of essential workers who can receive free childcare during the lockdown. This expansion does not apply to people like Goode, who are working full-time from home. Here, Goode shares what it’s been like teaching from home with four kids to look after.
How do you balance teaching and your kids’ at-home learning?
My school day starts ahead of everybody else. Once I get [my kids] up and going, I’m online first. I usually sign on at about eight o’clock, because we start at 8:10. [My] little ones have nutrition breaks during the day, but our breaks are at different times. I break for one hour for lunch at 10:40, but the little ones have already started their break, and they go back at 10:50. So there is an overlap of 10 minutes where I’m able to come down and check on them, make sure that they’re set up, and double check that they’ve eaten. They kind of understand that they’re not supposed to interrupt me, particularly while I’m teaching and if I’m doing a class discussion. At the end of the school day, [I] log everything off, get the kids outside for a bit to make sure that they have some fresh air, and then recalibrate, so we can be fresh for the next day. It doesn’t happen all the time, but putting those routines in place is what helps me to get through.
What has been the most challenging part of this for you?
[It’s hard] having my kids at home and not being able to assist them when they need help, particularly my youngest who’s in grade one. If something doesn’t work, it’s not formatting properly, or he switched out of the screen… [I’m not there] to give him simple instructions like that. He’s not doing anything bad, but he’s not supervised. And how can he be if I’m expected to be working? I’m accountable for the students that I’m online with, but I’m also accountable for my children. I want to provide them with the best care, and having my six-year-old unattended in front of a computer all day is not appropriate.
Have you had tech challenges with students?
With this most recent lockdown, it was like that mad dash to make sure that we could get appropriate tech to the kids that needed it. Wanting to use different interfaces and different applications is a learning curve for everyone, so sometimes it’s challenging. I think the hardest part at this particular moment is doing assessments in the online learning environment. It’s not like I’m proctoring every assessment that they’re doing; I have to insist that they have their cameras on, so I can see that they’re not looking in their notes. Coming up with different ways to assess students in an online setting [is challenging].
How can people support teachers right now?
We all need to operate with a little bit of grace, because we’re all doing the best that we can. Parents at home with their kids are facing all kinds of challenges. Some students need to be going to school, and the fact that they’re home is really hard. Parents throughout this pandemic have been doing a lot. But continuing to be patient, checking in with [their kids] to see how they’re doing—even just by keeping up with their work—that kind of stuff really helps everything to go much smoother.
On a day-to-day basis, how do you feel?
I am super exhausted and overspent. I don’t think that it’s anybody’s fault, it’s just the reality of the pandemic: teaching online, having my children online, seeing more restrictions, and also being charged with responsibility to respond to what’s happening in the world, and wanting to engage my students and my children in these deep conversations about race. It’s all [so] much, so morale is low at the end of the day. But I’m trying to be intentional about really checking in with myself, which helps me to be able to start fresh the next day.
I can’t lie and say that everything is great—it’s not. I can’t wait for things to go back to some level of normalcy. Our mental health is serious, our emotional health is serious, especially because we’re being isolated from what we normally would do. Taking the time to be honest with yourself is important. Be kind to yourself, in spite of it all. Remember that you’re doing your best—and that’s enough.
This interview has been edited and condensed.