Week Nine: Teachers Offer Their Best Advice – An Update from the CEO

Good afternoon, FAmily,

Last week we wrapped Week 9 of online instruction, and it appears that the warm weather is finally here as we begin Week 10. I am looking forward to having more opportunities to spend time outdoors in the warm sunshine. We’re all well overdue for some good, old-fashioned Vitamin D.

This week, my update will again let our teachers’ voices take center stage as they answer a different aspect of the question “How’s it going with online instruction?

As a parent of two high-energy, elementary school-aged children, I understand the challenge of working full-time from home while parenting. I will be the first to admit that the lines between work and life can sometimes become blurry, and it can be difficult to find a way to balance so many important, yet competing, responsibilities. 

I also know that so many thousands of others are in the same situation, and so I thought it would be incredibly helpful to share honest advice provided by our teachers as they, too, are learning to balance work, life, and family. In addition, we asked for our teachers’ suggestions on how we as parents can work together to keep our students feeling supported, focused, and engaged with schoolwork.  

Below, you’ll hear from our teachers Ms. Loriann Mason, Ms. Alice Lubrano, and Mr. Chris Torino, as they share their best advice.

Ms. Loriann Mason, Foundation Academy Primary School First Grade Teacher 

Q: What advice do you have for parents that are trying to juggle supporting their children and other duties such as working from home or taking care of other children?

A: As a mom of three and seven-year-old boys, I found that creating a daily schedule has helped us immensely in getting through the day. Creating a schedule helps the boys know what’s coming next. They understand that there are certain expectations for different parts of the day, and as a result, our days are generally smooth.

Each day, we all wake up at the same time, have breakfast and get right to work. I use the mornings as learning time for the boys. My little one spends time with his letters, numbers, music, a coloring sheet, toys, Play-Doh, and lots of snacks! He tends to want to move through activities quickly, so I’m sure to have several different things lined up. Messes are also par for the course. 

Meanwhile, my first grader and I check in with his teacher and get moving on his list of school work. Periodically, while he is reading sight words, or working on another independent task, I’ll check in with my teammates, respond to an email or follow up with text messages from parents. Some mornings, the work can get intense, so we make time for a short snack break or a dance break. I get moving too! 

Around midday, they get settled for lunch and that’s when I dig a little deeper into my own work. I work in a separate space where I can still monitor the children. For the most part, I’m able to work uninterrupted during this time because, after a morning of hard work, they’re eager for a break and to be able to play with one another. During the afternoon, I allow them free time to play, dance, or watch their favorite shows while I get through my own list of things to do. This does include work, but it also includes quiet time for me to rest, exercise/meditate, eat, or, catch up on MY favorite show. Getting started during the earlier part of the day allows us to get a lot of the hard work done and out of the way sooner. That way, we can be more flexible with the rest of the day. 

My schedule isn’t always perfect. I’ve learned to allow myself some grace on those imperfect days. Sometimes the boys just don’t feel up to it or I don’t feel up to it. And that’s okay. This is a new experience for all of us and we can’t control a lot of what is happening. I’ve found, though, that creating just a little bit of balance between my work life, my family life, and my self-care helps me to feel calmer, more grounded, and a little more successful each day.

Q: What advice do you have for students in order to stay on top of their responsibilities during this time, and to stay engaged?

A: Now that we are all working from home, students’ home lives and school lives have become intertwined. Now, more than ever, it is very important for them to establish and maintain a schedule – a schedule that they can easily commit to each and every day. Carving out time to complete a school-related task as well as home responsibilities with the promise of having fun later is a great way to help them develop into a well-rounded, successful student.

Schedules create expectations for students. It shows them what they have to do, when they have to do it and how long they must be engaged in that task. Further, creating a schedule would allow students to focus on achieving one goal at a time and work on being successful at achieving that singular goal. Designating small blocks of time throughout the day where students have to be engaged and stay on top of their responsibilities collectively amount to greater successes in their futures.

Ms. Alice Lubrano, Foundation Academy Primary School Kindergarten Teacher

Q: What advice do you have for parents that are trying to juggle supporting their children and other duties, such as working from home or taking care of other children?

A: Parents, take it easy. Help your children set a daily schedule with their classwork and chores. Give them incentives that involve quality time – like baking cookies or playing board games – together. This will buy you some time and give them something to look forward to. Our kids are craving quality time with us. Let’s take advantage of this time that we don’t always get and be grateful.  

Q: What advice do you have for students in order to stay on top of their responsibilities during this time, and to stay engaged?

A: Set a daily schedule and time limits for each task. Also, find a quiet space where you can focus and work comfortably. If you stick to your schedule, you will have time to do other things you enjoy. 

Mr. Chris Torino, Foundation Academy Middle School Physical Education/Health Teacher

Q: What advice do you have for parents that are trying to juggle supporting their children and other duties, such as working from home or taking care of other children?

A: As a dad who is expecting my second child, I had to seriously step back and reorganize. I had to plan everything from teaching to taking care of my son. I had to find and use resources to help take care of my son and wife so I could get everything else done around the house. In summary, you HAVE to plan!

Q: What advice do you have for students in order to stay on top of their responsibilities during this time, and to stay engaged?

A: I truly believe the same can be said about students. You need to treat this as a situation to prepare you for your future. You have to treat your days like you’re still in school.

At the same time, remember that you are kids and your parents expect you to be a bigger part of everyday chores and responsibilities. You have to go to bed at the right time. You have to eat the best that you can. You have to plan the night before for the next day like you’re in school. You have to talk to your teachers if you struggle or need help. Advocate for yourself!

One overall thought… this too shall pass and do the best that you can. That’s all we can ask of you.

I want to again thank our teachers for sharing their advice. Your input is so appreciated!

Second, to wrap up this update and expand upon this advice, I have just three bits of my own to offer. 

  1. Definitely give yourself grace. None of us have ever experienced anything like this before. We’re all doing our best, and that’s really all that we can expect from one another. If you’re stressing or panicking, take 5 really deep breaths and center yourself. It may sound simple, but I promise you, it really can be effective in helping you to reset and return to a calmer baseline during times of stress.
  2. Reach out if you’re in need of help. As parents, we’re always juggling a lot. Sometimes we can get stuck inside our own heads. But, if we can learn to recognize when that happens and address it by reaching out to others for support, we have an opportunity to learn and grow. And that sets an excellent model for our kids (who are probably watching you right now as you read this…) to follow.
  3. To connect parents within our community, we’ve been holding free, 30-minute parenting support webinars entitled “Parenting During COVID-19.” Each week we have a different guest who speaks to a helpful parenting-related topic. If you haven’t been able to tune in yet, I highly recommend that you do so, if for no other reason than to give yourself some support. You’re not alone in any of this, and we’re here to help support you and your family. You can learn all about these free parenting support discussions and sign up for them here.

In closing, I hope you found some of the advice offered to be helpful. If you have any great tips or advice on things that are working for you, please leave a comment below and share it with me, because the more we share with one another, the better we all become. 

Have a great week!

Yours in community,

Graig Weiss
Foundation Academies

P.S. If you’d like to help support our students as they face the many unforeseen challenges of this crisis, please consider making a donation online today.

Posted in

Graig Weiss

Graig Weiss served as the Chief Executive Officer of Foundation Academies from 2014-2022. He began 5 years before as Middle School Principal. A 2003 Teach for America corps member, Mr. Weiss taught Math and Science in the Bronx and the Dominican Republic prior to becoming an administrator and was selected as Teacher of the Year in 2007. Prior to entering the education field, Mr. Weiss worked in the financial services sector with Cambridge Associates, LLC in Boston, MA. He holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Finance and Accounting from the University of Pittsburgh, a Master of Science in Teaching from Fordham University, and a Master of Science in Educational Leadership from the University of Scranton.