The story appears on

Page A5

June 11, 2020

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Opinion

What I learned as a parent when school reopened

THE transition from classrooms to home learning was hard for parents and students alike during the novel coronavirus lockdown. Returning to normal is equally fraught with new challenges.

The last group of primary school students returned to classrooms last week, but parents of all school-age children aren’t fully off the hook. Their engagement is still required for a smooth transition.

I am the parent of a 17-year-old son who is in the first year of senior high school. As part of his transition back to classroom studies, I have already attended four lectures and participated in one online parents’ meeting.

The lectures have been organized by the local educational authority for parents.

In the parents’ meeting on May 12, the school dean told us parents that it would be unrealistic to expect our children to reach their optimal levels of performance after home learning for nearly three months.

On May 14, we were asked to watch a televised lecture by Chen Mo, a psychologist from East China Normal University. Chen explained why many faults blamed on children actually originate with parents.

The catchword of the lecture was “empathize.” The message: Children should be viewed as independent entities rather than mere extensions of the unfulfilled ambitions of parents.

An even more compelling lecture came on May 24, delivered by Chen Shan, an associate professor from Shanghai University of Sport. She explored how to address the void left by the sudden disengagement with e-devices.

After more than three months of online classes and reliance on the Internet for learning, homework and socializing, children need help readapting to wireless education. That can be a formidable challenge.

A recent survey found that even after school reopening, a third of the surveyed students said they spend more than two hours a day on electronic devices and parental intervention often turns confrontational. Parents who oppose use of devices outnumber those who approve by 3 to 1, but a wholesale ban is unrealistic, Chen Shan cautioned.

Rather, children could be drawn away from cyberspace by the warmth of family life and shared activity outside.

Chen cited a passage from JD Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye.”

“I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff — I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they're going, I have to come out from somewhere and catch them.”

Online teaching has been defined as a standard medium of instruction for all schools, making online access imperative.

Technology necessary

Thus I revealed all passwords of electronic devices to my son when online learning began in February. But then it was made clear to me that technology is necessary in every step of the learning process and well beyond. It is used in tackling and submitting assignments, to say of nothing of the need for constant monitoring of class notifications.

Under such circumstances, my fumbling attempts to regain control were easily crushed.

On the day before school reopened, our flat panel device broke down — literally burnt out. The device was still fairly new, but I did not think it fair to blame the manufacturer.

I more or less agreed with Chen Shan on the futility of a wholesale ban on electronic devices. They are more than just lectures, homework and computer games. They are about staying connected socially, and that connection has a bearing on our psychological well-being.

Chen also spoke of the need to cultivate in children some judgment about the use of the Internet. That is not an easy task, given how academic and extracurricular activities have been packed into our children’s schedules.

We middle-aged folk are sometimes nostalgic about the great outdoors, which teenagers often denigrate. For them, nearly all interesting and meaningful pursuits happen indoors in front of screens. But tactics are available to draw them away.

During Shanghai’s Quality Life Week that ended on June 5, over 50 families camped out, enabling children to be wakened at dawn by birdsong. The camping drew families together and perhaps helped wean children from their infatuation with the virtual world.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend