8 Tips to Be a Surrogate Teacher While Schools Are Closed

Many governments in Europe have taken the wise decision to close the schools for a number of weeks. But with that many parents are confronted with doing “something-with-school”, because doing nothing for 3 weeks is not an option for me. So we will have to -partially and temporarily- fill in the role of teacher.

Today, exactly one year ago I was on Easter Island with my family (there are worse destinations 😉

Apart from the fact that I call myself blessed for this experience, I also have the privilege to be the surrogate teacher for my 10-year-old daughter for a year. A unique experience, and very confronting…

Below 8 😉 tips that helped me guide my daughter through group 6 with good results:

1. Be patient

Be patient! To your child, but also to yourself. It’s for both of you new so you both have to get used to this new relationship. Ignore comments like “the teacher doesn’t do it like that” and “at school, I can do so-and-so”. You’re not at that school…

But also realize that you have quite a head start in the field of language, spelling, and mathematics… Your offspring has just started and is far from unconsciously competent.

2. Make a clear planning

Make sure you have a good daily schedule in advance. For everyone, including children, it is important to manage expectations. Tell them what’s on the agenda that day. Try to start with the more intensive subjects such as mathematics. You will notice that as the day progresses, the energy level drops.

3. Create a structure

As with remote working it is important that there is structure. Try to start at ‘normal’ school hours. Provide variety and have regular breaks (go out for a walk, kick a ball around, …).

“It’s a very strange phenomenon, but when we reduce what we own and essentially ‘detox’ our house, it has a detox effect on our bodies as well.” – Marie Kondo

4. Workplace

A clean environment stimulates a clear mind. Find a place that is quiet and make it tidy. Put materials away when you are done. Also, arrange it as a ‘school’ place as much as possible. For example, we have put up a globe and put a print-out of the weekly schedule on the wall. There is also brown paper to take notes and write down homework.

5. Roleplay

From other parents we got the tip to start the lessons symbolically. It is important for your child to realize that you are leaving the role of the parent behind and temporarily change into the role of the teacher. I know stories of parents who started and ended the lessons with a tour around the motorhome, or by wearing a necklace. In our case, I had a special now-I-am-teacher cap.

6. Focus

Be aware that learning is intense. Especially since your child is now sitting one-on-one with you. In a class of 20+ children, a child can dodge attention and is not constantly in the spotlight.

In the beginning, I started enthusiastically with blocks of one hour, but reality soon taught me that 30 minutes is the max (that will differ per child). I learned that there is no point in continuing if the focus is gone.

7. Keep it fun

Update your teaching materials! I noticed that in many cases the study material is quite outdated (I had to explain to my daughter what Hyves was). Now with Easter Island, Australia, and other exotic destinations we have been able to teach a lot of subjects in a playful way (mathematics with other currencies, history of the Incas, …).

But also this awful cause offers opportunities. Tomorrow I am going to explain during ‘math’ why social distancing helps to spread the virus more slowly.

8. Be patient

Did I mention to be patient? 😉

All that remains is for me to wish you good luck! But enjoy it too, it was a unique experience for me!

More tips? Any questions? Drop us a line!