Family Drama From Online Schooling? Try This Five-Minute Plan

Online school isn't going away soon. Take action. Make it better.

Posted Dec 30, 2020

Last year, I wrote an essay called What's Working? A Five-Minute Exercise for a Better Life.

Although everything else seems to have changed since last year, the ideas in that essay have not.  It provides a starting point for making things better. I have used it in classroom assessments, to think about promoting my app for kids living with pain, and to improve my teaching.

Today, I want to talk about using it to make on-line schooling better. 

Here's how it works:

1. Take a piece of paper.  Divide it into four sections.  You can fold one piece of paper or draw a line across two sheets in a spiral notebook. But give yourself some space. Don't cramp your ideas.

2. Write a question in each section. What's working? What's not? What should I do more of? What should I do less of?  

3. Think about online schooling and write. Just write. It doesn't have to be in order, but do spend serious time on each one of the four quadrants. Especially the stuff that bugs you.

Be Specific. Nothing is too small.

What's Working? Having a water bottle and snack on the desk. Standing up while you write. Post-it notes with Zoom shortcuts. Headphones with a mic. Chewing gum.

What's Not? The dog barks if he's ignored. Mom can't help when she's working. Internet dropout. Maybe it's three kids on one computer and a phone. Maybe it's everyone trying to hit the bathroom when teachers call a break.

You get the picture.

4. Make what works happen more often. You've got it on paper. Take a breath. Read through your quadrants. Add more things that come to you. I like to focus first on what's working and what I should do more of. Build on those strengths! Make sure they happen. Build them into your day.  

5. Prioritize and problem solve. Look at what isn't working and what you're doing that's making your life worse. We all do things that make things worse.

You probably can't fix it all.  Fix what's bugging you most.

  • Look at your 'do less of' quadrant. Why are you doing them? What could you do instead? Take some time to find other strategies.
  • Look at what's 'not working'. Identify the problem you're trying to address. What would make this better?  
  • Look at the 'do more' quadrant. Are there things in there that would help with the things that are going wrong?

It's not a miracle. It's a process.

This technique is a process. Ask each of your kids to do it. Do it yourself. Then sit down and see what you can do together to do good stuff more and bad stuff less.

6. Wait a few weeks. Do it again. In my classes, I have students do this process every few weeks. Sometimes they share it with me, when I'm asking them about what the class should do. Sometimes they do it for themselves, thinking about their study habits. Sometimes I have them do it with a group, when they're working on a joint project. 

What you do with your family depends on the problem you're trying to solve.

I always find it helpful. It's part of a mindful process of taking small steps forward that make life better.