What do you think of not teaching children?

Pedagogue: "There are children who have not been available for weeks"

Thousands of students have been learning from home since the beginning of November. This is not only a challenge for the children and young people, but also for the parents. After all, it is they who, in addition to their jobs, usually also have to take on the role of teacher.

Distance learning has now been extended again, with schools remaining closed at least until the end of the lockdown on February 8th. Will that be what will happen with the school year? Many parents and teachers are critical. After all, many students have had learning deficits. Not all of them have a quiet place to study at home and dedicated parents to support them. Judging students regularly now is unfair given the circumstances.

DER STANDARD spoke to people who are confronted with the challenges of distance learning every day. What experiences have you had? How are the children and young people? And how do parents continue to motivate their offspring to go to school (and not go crazy in the process)?

"Many have no job, no rest and no parents to help."

Daniela Huber-Peter from Graz is a teacher, entrepreneur and mother of two children (9 and 5 years old)

I volunteer to look after children who have learning difficulties. I see how many families swirl with distance learning. I am totally annoyed when politicians stand up and say: "The children need a quiet workplace." There are children who are completely lost in this crisis, who have no parents to take care of them. In Graz and Vienna I have many former colleagues from focus schools, some of whom have not reached the children for weeks. The politicians don't even know what's going on out there. How many children fall by the wayside due to the school closings - and what inequality of opportunity is created as a result.

In the long run, distance learning is no alternative to face-to-face teaching, and we finally have to start getting creative and trying out other concepts.

A good example of how school can work: My aunt is a teacher in Switzerland. The primary school classes were divided into small groups of four to five children. Every day the children were at home with a different family. Within these small groups, the children were given weekly assignments and learned together. The teacher visited a different group every day and could spend a lot of time with the few children. Of course, the teachers are regularly tested and wear FFP2 masks. The best thing about this concept: The small groups were mixed with stronger and weaker students. Due to the heterogeneous group, the concept was self-supporting, the students supported each other - no student fell by the wayside in this way.

Apart from that, children need social contacts. You cannot lock them up permanently and forbid them to interact with their peers. The infection process is also manageable in such small groups.

I think group formations make sense in the upper grades as well. Many teenagers are already tired and unmotivated. If you tell them that you can definitely go back to face-to-face classes in two to three weeks, then the motivation might also come back. Then the classes should just be split.

In addition, a change of perspective is appropriate: the focus should no longer be on adhering to a curriculum or getting the best possible grades. To be honest, we have to get away from the idea that grades will be distributed meaningfully this year. How should one judge children and adolescents over the distance? You have to imagine that family A has completely different circumstances at home than family B. Many have no job, no peace and no parents who can help. How fair is that to the child then?

I think everyone involved needs to relax more. Parents in particular shouldn't have to worry about grades. This year is different. School is different. If students are performing poorly, that's normal. Personally, I see with my son, who usually only has A's, that he gets tired, doesn't feel like it anymore. That is normal because the crisis is affecting the children. Many colleagues cannot understand how the children are doing, they don't have any of their own. And that's why they keep demanding performance and stupidly sticking to the curriculum. But I don't even want to blame the teachers because they themselves get the pressure from the school management, and the school management gets the pressure from the education directorate, etc.

My appeal therefore goes directly to the politicians: Please all of us make sure that the children are mentally well, that they do not despair or begin to doubt themselves. Let's take the pressure off! Let's find a concept that enables individual support, for example in small groups and in the fresh air.

"My students are at their limit. They are now fed up with distance learning."

Christopher Spörk from Baden is a math tutor and Youtuber

Corona caused the education system to take extraordinary measures, which can also be seen as positive throughout. Our school system was forced into digitization, which from my point of view was urgently needed. Now it is the case that students and teachers are often left in the lurch. There is still a lack of structure and technical know-how. In mathematics in particular, it is important to visualize calculations and sketches and work them out step by step. But there is no suitable tool for this, and the students should understand it anyway.

Even before Corona, many students had math problems. Which is because mathematics in school is developing more and more from application-oriented and comprehensible mathematics to theory. It is often no longer a question of being able to calculate examples, but rather of answering complicated theoretical questions. And I think that is precisely what makes distance learning even more difficult for students than in school. If a calculation comes up with a wrong result, you have to go to "troubleshooting", check your calculation methods, etc., but when it comes to theoretical questions, the error can often not be clearly identified, and the self-help skills of students are getting smaller and smaller.

In distance learning, schoolchildren are confronted with learning material independently, but unfortunately they have not been and will not be shown how it actually works. In this way, Corona mercilessly shows us the problems and errors of the school system. That's why I can only advise parents that they take the pressure off their children. It is not the children's fault if they find it difficult to study at home. And a negative note is the smallest problem in this crisis.

I believe that the students need more structure and security again. Clear guidelines as to when which test should be held. If it is announced: "There will be no schoolwork until Christmas", and suddenly there will be some, or if the opening of the schools is postponed again and again, then the children also suffer psychologically.

I would like the government to have a plan by the end of the school year that students can use as a guide and that is then enforced as well as possible. As a mathematician, it is clear to me that we are in a very dynamic situation with Corona and that it is often difficult to predict, but it is precisely then that it is important to help the students and I do not have the feeling that this is happening.

Students should organize regular online math study groups. The material is usually much easier to work out together. If it doesn't work at all, ask tutors about cheap online group courses. I myself offer individual small group courses from ten euros per person and hour. But you can also find many useful videos with explanations and tips and tricks on the Internet and on YouTube.

I myself started a YouTube channel at the end of last year to support as many students as possible in this crisis. It is often easier to learn if you have mathematics explained using video. I also use these videos for my tutoring students. I often send them videos so that they can watch them before the lesson or for afterwards to review the material. From now on, students can also send me questions free of charge, I'll choose as many of them as possible and explain them in videos on YouTube.

"A well-structured everyday life is essential for children."

Birgit Satke, head of advice on wire and life and social counselor

We advisors from advice on wire notice that the mood among the children and young people is very tense. The whole thing has just been taking a long time. Obviously, there are also many fears associated with this: Will the school ever open again? Can I still come with you in class? Are we going to write a homework? How do I get a grade? What does my future look like anyway?

Again and again, children and young people say that they are overwhelmed with distance learning and that they want regular lessons. Apart from that, they lack contact with their peers and exchange - they suffer a lot from that. Relationships with parents are not always rosy. There are enough adults who are overwhelmed themselves, have worries and fears and simply cannot help their children in distance learning. Those children lack the personal interaction with the teachers the most. Teachers are often simply an important caregiver.

But even in socially strong families, the parents are preoccupied with their own issues, have to work and cannot take care of the children as extensively as usual. If there is too little time, they feel guilty. What we then observe with the parents is that they take over the schoolwork from the children when they are not in the mood. Maybe that's nice, but completely counterproductive. Then sit down together and find out what the problem is.

A well-structured everyday life is essential for children. If this is missing, difficulties arise more often. With young people in particular, the rhythm of the Corona crisis has become totally mixed up, they go to sleep later and are then tired in the morning and cannot find any motivation for school. Parents should therefore have a look at when the children go to bed and whether they take enough breaks during study during the day. Perhaps the family works out a daily or weekly plan together, which is then followed. That gives support and security!

The focus on the positive is currently particularly important for children. When they have done something well, they should be praised. The achievement should be recognized by the parents. Enjoy yourself with your children and spend times together that have nothing to do with school.

Don't forget: parents need breaks too. If the parents do not have any time off, then they cannot be relaxed and there for the children. Take a bath, watch a movie alone and go for a walk. The children usually understand this very well!

"It is extremely important for parents to use their own resources well and to take care of themselves."

Andrea Prettenhofer from Vienna is a psychologist, blogger and mother of two children (3 and 7 years old)

Our family is in a very privileged situation: My partner has only worked part-time since the children were born, and I have just started my own business, which is why we can organize and divide everyday life well.

Our son started primary school in the first grade in autumn. It's all strange for him, of course, but distance learning basically works quite well. The teacher is very nice and always available and the child is very interested in learning.

But I notice in my coaching that this is by no means the rule. Quite a lot of parents are overwhelmed with the situation of home office and childcare or distance learning. It is extremely difficult to bring all of this under one roof and then also to be a partner and person with your own needs. That's why I've been offering special online coaching for parents for some time. In the sessions we talk about all these difficulties in everyday family life and try to find solutions with various tools, for example from positive psychology.

It is extremely important for parents to use their own resources well and to take care of themselves. Otherwise you will burn out at some point - and nobody benefits from it. For example, last week my partner and I sent both children to kindergarten and school for two mornings for the first time. That could have been done differently now, but to be honest: This "break" helped a lot.

We all don't know how long the current situation will last. That is why we should start now at the latest to introduce routines at home, as is also the case in normal everyday life. It is best to create a daily plan, because the predictability of the daily activities creates a feeling of security, both for children and for us adults, and this can reduce feelings of anxiety and anxiety. After all, at least at home you know what to do next.

We have also drawn up a family contract that describes the challenges, roles and strengths of the individual family members. Who is responsible for lunch? Who is going out with the dog? Who controls the schoolwork? Even children can take on tasks, such as helping with tidying up or clearing out the dishwasher.

I know not everyone has a large apartment and lots of space, but small zones for individual retreat are very important. Then it may not be a separate room, but a work zone for parents at the kitchen table. For the children it has to be said within this zone: do not disturb! But of course you can set up your own children's workspace for the children at the same table with crayons, puzzle books or handicraft materials.

Especially with small children, I find it particularly important that each parent thinks for themselves where they want and need to withdraw from the family (both for home office and for leisure activities).