‘PRODUCING’ A Healthy Learning Environment
written/photos by John and Lea Mastroberti
As many working parents can attest to, the balancing act of raising children and focusing on a career is a fine-tuned art—one that even the most organized of parents will tell you is a lot of trial and error. So, when the order to close NYC public schools to help stop the spread of Covid-19 came down, many of us were overwhelmed as we struggled to adapt to this “new normal.”
Most parents have worked from home on the occasional sick-day, but those were far different than what we’re experiencing now. There’s a guilt-free approach to allowing your sick kids to zone out in front of the tv all day—but now with school closings it’s up to parents to make sure their children are keeping up with schoolwork and not developing bad habits that can negatively affect their long term performance once they return to the traditional classroom.
To add to the mounting levels of stress, virtual school relies on the parents to take over as teachers and continuously upload completed assignments throughout the day. This can feel especially daunting for parents who need to keep up with their professional work during this time—much of which is busier than usually as brands and businesses go into reactive mode.
Those parents I described above are me and my wife, Lea. We work fast paced jobs in production and advertising, both of which continued on in a remote working environment with the pace picking up rather than slowing down—something we are super grateful for, but the reality is this “new normal” requires a lot of multitasking and adapting.
After a few days of complete chaos, my wife and I decided to approach this new process with the same rigor and know-how that we would for producing a major commercial shoot. Lea, an SVP Group Account Director at McCann, has found that years of juggling many fast paced and multifaceted projects at once has given her the time management skills needed to help our daughter stay on top of her work while continuing to manage her job. For me, I’ve used my organizational skills to prep us in advance and keep us moving throughout the day.
A FEW TIPS AND TRICKS WE’VE FOUND TO BE HELPFUL WHILE AT HOME
Create a schedule – and stick to it. If we are fighting over who is doing math while the other parent is on a call, we have found that neither will get done.
Dress for success – Have your kids get dressed and ready at the same time they would for a normal school day. Children thrive on routine so try to stay as consistent as you can.
A space to work – Living in NYC, we don’t all have the luxury of excess space, but having your kids sit somewhere away from their usual play areas can help reduce distractions.
It takes a village – This is the best time to have your kids engage with as many other people as possible. Both for their sanity and yours. We have regular video calls with Juliet’s grandparents, sitter, cousins, and school friends—some of which provide help on school work while others allow her to socialize.
Communication – Remote learning is not an easy process. Keep your child’s teacher involved in any issues you are having. Feel empowered to push back or speak up about the challenges you are facing so you can get extra support.
Zoom/Skype/Teams – It’s not just for office calls! Have the kids on for fun chats with their friends.
Have fun – Pick up an indoor hobby you can share with the kids -– doing it as a family will ensure all participate and it gives you a chance to bond.
Despite all of these “new normal” daily challenges, there is a very powerful, growing, sense of community that has developed as we collectively tackle the crisis. Whether it’s the city-wide daily 7pm clap for our essential frontline workers, the sparks of creativity resonating throughout, or just bonding time with your family, it has proven to be a great time to deepen and strengthen relationships.