Unprecedented Times, Unprecedented Authorizing: Adult Education in the Face of COVID-19: Being a Parent, Teacher, and Student During a Global Pandemic
Education, as we know it, has shifted entirely online due to COVID-19. The transition has been challenging for PK-12 students as they navigate completing classwork at home and finding ways to maintain a school-like environment. Still, for adult students, the shift has affected far more.
Pre-pandemic, some adult students were juggling family responsibilities, work obligations, and their education. Students were enrolled in either morning or evening classes to accommodate their schedules.
Now, COVID-19 has turned Washington, DC's adult learners' world upside down as many adult students are now juggling being a parent, a teacher to their children, a teleworker or essential employee, as well as a student.
We talked with students at Goodwill Excel Center PCS, Briya PCS - Adult Education, and The Next Step PCS to learn more about how they're navigating this 'new normal.'
Here's what they had to say:
- How are you adjusting to the new normal that is COVID-19?
Ms. Chawntavia Watkins, Goodwill Excel Center PCS: I am adjusting in many ways. I'm married and have four kids, so our space feels small when we are here all day and night. School used to be a place I could go to find peace and quiet and focus on me. Now, I'm trying to find that in my home too.
Griselada, Briya PCS - Adult Education: [I'm] just trying to stay home and be safe [so I do not come in contact with the virus].
Ronica Harris, Goodwill Excel Center PCS: Everything is so different from it being all virtual. I am getting used to being entirely in online classes. I don't mind the online structure; it just took a moment to get used to [the new format]. I like it because I can work at my own pace and take breaks when needed, and for me, this is important.
Anonymous Student, The Next Step PCS: I stay at home and follow all the doctors' recommendations to stay healthy.
- What does distance learning look like for an adult student?
Ms. Chawntavia Watkins, Goodwill Excel Center PCS: As an adult student, distance learning looks like staying on a schedule. Most days, I'm okay if my wife can help with the kids and their schedules. But, if I must help with the kid's work, then I have to work on my classes after they're finished with school. It's hard to focus on your schoolwork as an adult student because your kids come first. So, distance learning looks like checking into your live classes and then knowing that you will have to go back later in the day or at night to finish your work and review anything you may have missed. It also looks like making sure you are always checking in with your teacher and your coach so they know what is going on with you at home. They're always there to support us, so it's important we keep them updated.
Griselada, Briya PCS - Adult Education: I can't give my full attention to my studies. I prioritize my children.
Ronica Harris, Goodwill Excel Center PCS: For me, I am in the foster care system and recently moved to a new foster home. I am trying to stay focused and balance my responsibilities with outside distractions still going on. I try to stay on schedule with my classes as best as I can, but I also find myself doing work at night, so I can help take care of other things during the day, too.
- What are some challenges you are facing while learning from home?
Ms. Chawntavia Watkins, Goodwill Excel Center PCS: Having all my family in the house and internet connectivity are my biggest challenges. We're all using Wi-Fi and devices to access school, TV, and work. Sometimes we share devices or Wi-Fi and have to be patient with the speed. My teachers have been great and flexible with any work turn-in dates and times and understand the different responsibilities. It's been great to be able to login to my classes at night when everyone is asleep to review my classes then complete and turn in my work.
Anonymous Student, Briya PCS - Adult Education: The first few days were tough to get online. We have the internet, but I didn't understand the program from [my eight- year old's] school. I needed Annie [my Briya teacher] to help explain how to get my daughter online. Now my daughter knows how to log on, talk to her teacher, and upload homework all by herself.
Ronica Harris, Goodwill Excel Center PCS: Some of the challenges I have faced while learning from home have been around not getting the face to face instruction and help. I'm able to go into tutoring hours and office hours online with my teachers, but I miss the in-person interaction and the actual smart boards and papers in the classroom.
Anonymous Student, The Next Step PCS: The biggest challenge I'm facing is that my stepfather had the virus and was in the hospital. My mom is still working, so I have to take care of my little sister while my mom works. My little sister requires all my attention, and that is why I have problems doing my school activities.
- Has your employment situation shifted during the pandemic? How are you navigating this change?
Ms. Chawntavia Watkins, Goodwill Excel Center PCS: I am a barber, and my employment has shifted quite a bit as I cannot go into the shop anymore. This has been a change because I am not bringing in a stable income like I was before. We're navigating the loss of my job, between my wife and me, by making some changes in our lifestyle. My wife is also not working and is enrolled in online college courses full time. So, we are all focused on school right now in hopes that after this is over, we can find better employment.
Anonymous Student, Briya PCS - Adult Education: My husband lost his job. Like everyone, we are worried. We are applying for unemployment benefits.
Ronica Harris, Goodwill Excel Center PCS: I was not employed pre-pandemic and continue to be unemployed as I am focused solely on school. I plan to go to college in the fall and am currently working on college applications.
Anonymous Student, The Next Step PCS: I've been unemployed since the state declared non-essential businesses to close. I'm navigating this change [by] helping my mom with everything at home since I can't help her financially.
- What is it like having to parent and teach your children while you are also working, learning, and parent/teaching from home?
Ms. Chawntavia Watkins, Goodwill Excel Center PCS: This has been a lot! We have four kids: 13, 11, 9, and 6, so they are all in different grades. It has been frustrating at times when I must go and find my notes on some of the work that my kids are doing and almost re-learn some of the work. My 13 and 11-year-old are doing work that I am more familiar with. But my 9-year-old and 6-year-old need a lot more focus and attention. I will often have us all work together so they can see we are all working.
The good thing is, I use my wireless headphones to listen to my classes if I can while roaming around the house and working with my kids. It has been interesting to see my kids learn, especially on the same platforms I'm learning on like Google Classrooms.
Anonymous Student, Briya PCS - Adult Education: It is stressful and always busy. Recess is hard. We're scared to go outside for walks because we don't have enough gloves, masks, or hand sanitizer for the family, but my children play for 30 minutes in the garage for playtime.
Anonymous Student, The Next Step PCS: I don't have children, but I have a three-year-old sister that I have to teach while focusing on my lessons. It's really difficult because she wants to play when I try to teach her something.
- What else would you like to share?
Ms. Chawntavia Watkins, Goodwill Excel Center PCS: It is a new world doing school from home and having my kids learning from home. I have realized that structure is the most important. Right now, I am in brainstorm mode for family activities so that we can keep everyone on the same timeline, and we know what everyone is doing at the same time. Sometimes everyone is on their schedule, and that can be exhausting.
Ronica Harris, Goodwill Excel Center PCS: I have realized I can work independently more than I thought. I also think this time has allowed me to focus on my schoolwork and my next steps. I am really determined to go to college.
View the distance learning plans in adult education here: