A Parent Insight On Remote Learning

By Heather Uberti, Parent to EPS Students Class of ’25, ’22, and ‘20

When I was asked to write a reflection on the one-year anniversary of EPS going remote, my first thought was, “Ok, but first I need to make sure the kids aren’t logged into first period in their pajamas again.” Like many families, we were caught off guard when EPS initially decided to go remote and shocked when we began to realize that remote schooling would continue into the 2020-2021 school year. With three teenagers (8th grade, 11th grade, and an EPS 2020 grad) as well as my husband and me all working from home, there’s been a lot to reflect on.

What’s Changed:
In the spring of 2020, our family approached remote schooling with a day-by-day, make-it-to-June mentality. We tackled tech issues as they arose and although we definitely missed in-person interactions, we did appreciate the family time and sleeping in a bit later. But when the 2020-2021 school year began remote, we prepared for the long haul. We developed more efficient routines, invested in better wi-fi, carefully set up a workstation for each child, and perhaps most importantly – made sure my husband and I had separate office spaces in the house. Unfortunately, our attempt to balance screen time changed too, becoming an increasingly losing proposition when school, homework, and communicating with friends were all now online.

Our family watched EPS change as well. In the spring of 2020, we were impressed at how quickly and effectively EPS was able to shift to remote learning. Sure, remote learning was far from ideal, but we felt comforted by the fact that our kids were able to keep a similar schedule with consistent synchronous instruction – a challenging task for any school. When it became evident that the new school year would begin remote, we saw teachers adapt their instructional practices further for remote learning, including balancing screen time, adding at-home lab work, and interspersing lectures and class discussions with individual inquiry time.

What’s Remained the Same:
A year into remote learning, we still believe that EPS has maintained their high-quality instruction that first brought us here more than eight years ago. In fact, our son reports that EPS remote classes were on-par with the remote instruction he is currently receiving at Harvard.

The caring EPS teachers and staff have also remained the same. We appreciate that teachers are as reachable as they were pre-pandemic, just through a computer screen now instead of a door. Our teenagers may have cringed at the remote social activities, the holiday drive-throughs, and the carefully crafted assemblies (just ask about the 14 days of remote learning song), but they are the first to admit that the EPS teachers really do care and have tried their best to maintain a sense of community. As parents, my husband and I also appreciate the flexibility and understanding that we have found from so many teachers – the understanding that a pandemic and unrest in our country and world are a lot for anyone to deal with, especially during the already stressful teen years.

What We Have Had to Put Aside for Now:
As hard as EPS has tried, our children miss the natural in-person interaction more than they will admit. Peers are so influential in the life of a teen, and in the absence of in-person socialization, remote schooling can become pretty isolating. As our junior observed, it is so much harder to share a laugh or goof off during remote learning. Similarly, even with breakout rooms, group work is more difficult and less rewarding without the physical proximity and ability to read the social cues of peers.

Our family has felt this most acutely with the social events that are a key part of middle and high school – games, parties, dances, prom, graduation – and although EPS has tried very hard to bring these events online, our children tell us that they are just not the same. My husband and I have felt this too with remote gatherings, which while well-intentioned, always feel a bit awkward.

What We Have Gained:
When I began to think about possible gains, I was surprised by how many came to mind. I have gained precious time with my teenagers; yes, it has sometimes been emotional and stressful, but it is time nonetheless during the last few years of their childhood. Our children have also developed additional confidence with technology. Now that they can succeed in a remote class, there is nothing stopping them from enrolling in online college courses they might not have otherwise considered. Finally, being in the education field myself, I hope that this forced period of remote instruction will actually improve our education system in the long run. Think of the possibilities we have only scratched the surface on: remote fieldtrips, renowned experts, native language speakers, and the ability for a student to keep up even when sick at home, just to name a few.

I often wonder how our children will look back on this year. Will they pine for the social interactions and milestones they have missed? My hope is that this experience has strengthened their family bond and forced them to be more resilient. No, this year has definitely not been ideal, but it has at least taught us that there are many new possibilities when distance is not a barrier to learning.

I sincerely hope that you and your loved ones are healthy and well, and I look forward to connecting with you all soon when we can share a laugh, hopefully even in the same room.