When lockdown was announced to begin on 27 March, I was one of those parents who took my child out of school immediately.
"21 days? Come on, we got this," I thought.
"We can teach our kids. Can't be hard, surely!"
But no, we didn't have this, not by a long bloody mile!
I was determined, however. I went to PNA, the Crazy Store... wherever you could find school stuff and learning aids, while we waited to hear the way forward from school.
My child is at what I know is a good school - but initially there was no word from the teachers. In our parent WhatsApp group the resounding question was: Where are our teachers?
This was less than a week into lockdown... also the initial hard lockdown did coincide with the school holiday for March and Easter. But the week turned into two, and we waited some more. What now? Other schools were doing Zoom classes etc, and getting on with things.
When our teachers started to post things in our Google Classroom, the instructions were precise and easy to follow. And the parents were mostly happy, but annoyed by the wait.
Here is the thing though.
The teachers waited because they wanted to be on the same page, and not confuse the children. They also waited because they needed to know what was expected of them from the shambles that is the Department of Basic Education, where mixed messages became standard during the lockdown.
Once the worksheets arrived, I found them to be clear, precise - and if you weren't sure, there was always a teacher at hand to help you with queries online.
I was lucky enough to be able to access worksheets for my 8-year-old. My neighbour next door was trying to teaching Grade 12s via WhatsApp - that was if they had data. Most of her kids come from homes where there is no money for data, or any internet connections. Did she complain? No, not once. Was teaching via WhatsApp the norm for most of the teachers at her school? Like for most teachers across the country, it probably was.
My son's school followed the letter of Western Cape education department law - no one went to school before 25 August. Yes, some schools did - but most did not.
I used the DBE (Department of Basic Education) blue books, I made charts - my wall looks like a kiddies classroom. And yes, it helped. I worked my arse off. But could I compete when he eventually did go back five months later. It is a resounding NO!
So here is what I learnt:
• You are not a teacher (there is a reason it is a calling and well, you need to actually be qualified).
• Screaming like a banshee just scares your child. It is unnecessary.
• When teachers post in a classroom to help - follow it... they know what they are doing.
• Teachers are not domestics there to clean up after you - and you have no right to bad mouth them when you have no idea what happens behind the scenes.
• When teachers say they have your kids' back - they actually do.
But also, more importantly, I have learnt that we need to put in way more work with our kids. Why has it taken a virus, that has literally stopped the world, for us to do this?
We need to take our hats off to the teachers who put in massive effort and support them. Don't think, because your kid is in a private space, they are better - there are kids coming after yours. And rightly so. Check your privilege.
The massive inequality in our education system hit me hard during our Covid-19 lockdown. It has always been there and will continue for a long time to come still. There is no equal when it comes to our school system. It is broken, and will take a very, very long time to repair.
So think before you, as a parent, whine about and sweat the small stuff. Also, put in an effort, beyond lockdown. I know I certainly will be doing that.
Spare a thought for the teachers who now have to start their day a lot earlier, so your child can be screened. Monitoring children in terms of social distancing - especially younger children cannot be easy, especially in schools with much, much smaller spaces. Spare a thought for the teachers who have to stay later every day, to clean up and sanitise classrooms at the end of the day. Working on an alternate day model or platooning can't be easy. Updating Google Classrooms etc takes time and effort. Spare a thought for the teachers who have had to help your children catch up once they were back in the classroom.
Spare a thought for the teachers who have literally worked magic with close to zero extra resources during this time.
To the teachers who have put their hearts into this process - and always have anyway - doing what they do because they love to teach? I salute you. We all should!