May 2020

Supporting Children’s Education during the Pandemic: A webinar for UNA community

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They came through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

– Khalil Gibran (Your Children, from The Prophet)

When my children were growing up and I was struggling with who I was as a parent, a friend of mine suggested to me to read a book of poems by Khalil Gibran – The Prophet. The book struck a cord with me, especially the poem about children… What did it mean “my children are not MY children?”. How do I support them, but let them become who they want to be. This is a question, I am still struggling with. I think each one of us has to find our own answer to it. This question is relevant to many of us today, when we are faced with the prolonged school closures and an uncertain future of public education.

So I was not surprised when I got an email from Vicente R. from the The University Neighbourhood Association  (UNA) who asked me if I could lead a webinar for the parents. UNA is an organization that oversees the major residential neighbourhoods at UBC. As a a UBC long-time resident, I very much use UNA services and appreciate our local governance. We  live in a beautiful place and I hope it will remain so. So I was very glad to be invited to participate in an online webinar for the parents in our community. It was organized by Vicente R., Angela L. and Silvia M. It was an opportunity for me to share with the parents my experience with teaching mathematics and science, and more importantly my experience as a parent and as a teacher. Here I decided to summarize a few resources and ideas I shared with the parents today in the hopes that other parents, who might not have been able to join us might find useful.

Marina’s 7 thoughts on teaching your own children and learning with them:

  1. Cultivate the Growth Mindset (see the work of a psychologist Carol Dweck) – focus on the growth and believe in the power of improving. Remember, that comparing your children or yourself to others is very unhealthy. Help them be the best THEY can be.
  2. Remember that learning is happening all around us – while being with your children you are teaching them how to live, how to learn, how to love. Lead by example. You are their foremost Teacher even if you have never gotten a teaching certification…
  3. Reach out to your extended family and friends – kids need mentors who are not their parents. While many of us are physically removed from our extended family, use the power of technology to build virtual bridges.
  4. Connect your children to your (their) roots – while we live in a transient society, help your children connect to their roots – you are their bridge to the past, be it the language, the cuisine, the culture… Enrich their lives.
  5. Create structure for formal and informal learning – having structure helps the kids feel accountable and teaches them time management. Structure is also directly linked to personal accountability. Another important issue is to use the resources that allow for instant feedback – so the children know what they have achieved (i.e., Duolingo, PhET, etc.)
  6. Learn with your kids – you are the role model for your children. Share your passions with them (music, sports, cooking, passion for nature). Don’t be afraid to learn with them. You are not supposed to know all the answers, but you can teach them how to figure things out for themselves. Also don’t forget to ask your children to share with you what they have learned.
  7. Be forgiving and kind – we all make mistakes, so forgive yourself and your children if some things don’t work out – show them resilience and perseverance.

Some useful resources I have been using are listed on my blog:

Out of them, I would like to choose three to begin with:

a) IXL Learning  – it uses BC curriculum, provide ample feedback and will help your child excel in mathematics and English.

b) PhET simulations – a wonderful set of computer simulations in mathematics and science for different ages.

c) Language learning – Duolingo. This is a fantastic free resource for basic language learning. It is a community resource and they have a special children’s version of the software.

Finally, on my blog, I listed a number of interviews and  community events I have given on the topic:

This is a very short video about a very inspirational scientist – Richard Feynman – whose father Melville Feynman was a unoform salesman and not a scientist, but he inspired Richard Feynman to keep asking questions and get to them bottom of things – and eventually win a  Nobel Prize in physics in 1965:

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Most importantly, have fun learning!

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