Like 12 million students in France, my children continue to attend classes, from a distance. With results that depend on the goodwill of teachers and the supervision of parents.
Corona Infecting People
After the first moments of euphoria on Thursday evening after President Macron’s intervention, my children had to face the facts: the school closings and the weeks of confinement that were coming were not going to be vacation. Especially since their teachers seemed determined to teach from a distance and advance in the programs.
Two elementary and middle school children and two adults locked up in 57 square meters for an indefinite period. Homework will be done in the living room, without the possibility of isolating oneself. The risks of tensions are great. But my children don’t see any of the obstacles that stand in our way. They are very happy to be reunited as a family for several weeks, like a Sunday that would go on indefinitely. “Me too, I’m going to telecommute!” Ecstatic my son with stars in his eyes.
Multiple instructions and communication channels
I try unsuccessfully to connect to the CNED site My home class which crashes immediately under the influx of connections. And I learn on Friday evening that we will have to use other platforms. For my son, this will be the All My Year.com service. For my daughter, it’s more complicated. Everything will happen on applications that the establishment had already adopted before the coronavirus crisis. And it’s a bit of a gas plant.
In the morning, she must first log in to La Vie Scolaire. It’s not the Grand Corps Malade film, but the software that allows you to access your usual schedule. If a subject appears in blue, it means that a professor has sent new instructions which he becomes aware of via internal messaging. Then, you have to go to the Digital Work Environment (ENT) of the Ile-de-France region MonLycée.net. It provides access to PADs, collaborative working groups by class or teacher, which link to another internal messaging system called Zimbra. I already have a headache.
Both pupils and parents have their own account. Slight movement of panic in families who lost the back-to-school mails and did not know their identifiers. In the absence of centralizing instructions, the teachers each adopt a different mode of operation. You have to navigate through the multiple instructions: connect to the usual morning hours for History-Geography, photograph the drawings in Plastic Arts or even collect homework for the week in Earth Sciences and Life.
Monday morning is disenchantment. The Val-de-Marne generously granted an Ordival, a laptop, to all pupils in the department at the start of the school year. But it is so restrained that it is difficult to use. I realize too late that ideally we would have needed four computers. We have three. Which is already a lot. We will have to use them in turn.
But above all, like the parents of twelve other million students in France, we are desperately trying to connect to educational applications. No platform is accessible due to the large number of simultaneous connections. Some schools that have chosen to host a site on their own server are quickly overwhelmed.
All my year crashes, Not really surprised, we try to reassure our offspring who are surprisingly anxious at the prospect of falling behind.
At midday, the bypass strategies are organized. My son’s teacher is launching a great WordPress blog. New courses will be posted daily. He records his dictations in MP3 format and then integrates them into a player directly on his site. I did not expect such a high level of computer skills. It must be said that he had shown the film Tron to his CE2 class a few months ago. We should have known he was a techie!
Meanwhile, parents’ representatives from my daughter’s class are getting organized. A WhatsApp group and a Google Group are urgently created. As soon as one of us accesses content, he copies it and makes it available to everyone.
We finally get access to the courses. The amount of work is far from negligible. I hadn’t anticipated anything like this, naively expecting to have to supervise homework like for a weekend. But it’s good to literally do class at home.
My daughter finishes her last exercises at 7:00 p.m. My hopes of spending the end of the day finally devouring the entirety of Thomas Piketty’s books or chaining the ab-glute sessions in front of the Apple TV are dashed.
“I miss you a lot”
Tuesday, we take the rhythm. It suddenly appears possible to concentrate the class at home in one big morning, so that you can vary the pleasures in the afternoon between drawing, chess, gym and pastry.
On my daughter’s side, the teachers are getting impatient. Desperate to be unable to communicate with their students, they begin to send emails in scattered order to parents in order to retrieve the addresses of the children. We thus end up with several information channels for each teacher: children’s emails, parents’ emails, School Life, My Lycee.net, WhatsApp groups and the Google Group. A new platform, Kwik, is also emerging for math exercises.
The information is given throughout the day and we all compulsively constantly consult our smartphones for fear of running out.
We are also without news from a few rare teachers. Maybe they have personal problems? My daughter always loses a lot of time trying to connect and disperses on the different tools, not to mention that the WhatsApp group of students in her class, who are equipped with smartphones, is experiencing its peak of activity. Useful for helping each other … but formidable in terms of the potential for distractions.
“It becomes difficult to follow!”
The next day Wednesday is total confusion. Online at 9:00 a.m. to take the History class, students will wait in vain for an hour due to technical issues. We mistakenly receive instructions from a teacher from another class. Parents take the initiative to add their own instructions to the Google Group. No one is there anymore. “There is too much information everywhere on many media, it becomes difficult to follow,” complains a father. Others are falling apart. “We can’t do it all. There are siblings to manage our work more. Everything is confused ”.
My teacher friends in secondary school also call for help. They have to manage the school for their children at home, while providing distance lessons for their classes. “Today, I replied to 300 messages,” confides me, exhausted, one of them who also uses her own site to post the lessons online and plans to hold a videoconference course the following week. Little satisfaction, they prefer Pronote or Discord software to communicate with students and for the moment it works rather well.
“Limit the time in front of the screens”
Thursday, I have a hard time raising the children. It must be said that we watched movies in the evening as if we were on vacation and that their sleep begins to suffer. As of Monday, elementary school reminded us of some good practices to follow. “We advise you to limit the time in front of the screens,” we could read. Easier said than done, since the class is spent mostly in front of a screen for most of the day. We are also constantly being offered additional digital cultural or educational content. And confinement makes it easier to grant the right to watch a small cartoon or a feature film.
Tasks are piling up. The instruments and music theory teachers of the Municipal Conservatory are now also sending their exercises and the day is very structured by the different missions to be taken up.
Time flies and boredom never shows up. But tensions are starting to develop within the family. The parent who teleworks regularly takes refuge in his room, shouting “Nobody respects my work!” ”
Our two children exchange skills when one of them is singing while doing homework or the other is listening to his dictations at full volume. The whole family sometimes ends up putting a helmet on their head to focus. Lack of sports and ventilation activities weigh heavily. But for the moment, no one is really complaining about the situation.
At the end of this first week, I am rather amazed by the dedication of the teachers and quite astonished by the intense rhythm of the days which follow one another like in a long tunnel. I have a touched thought for children who find themselves alone because their parents are forced to work outside, whose family is unable to supervise them or who do not have access to a IT support.
How can they succeed in following the thread under these conditions? Are we going to leave a lot of students by the side of the road? And teachers unfamiliar with computers, how are they doing?