A Family Affair
SCHOOLS | April 30, 2020
A Family Affair

What Remote Learning Looks Like for Two South Side Sisters

Even though they both attend McClellan Elementary in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood, sisters Tamiah and Taylor H. had gotten used to their school days rarely overlapping. The physical distance between seventh and fifth grade may only be only a few hundred feet inside the school building, but for the sisters it meant vastly different assignments, contrasting schedules, and separate friend groups. Now, for the first time ever, they are finishing up the school year together at home, and they’ve found that maintaining a level of separation has been important for staying focused. 

“I’m happy to have Tamiah here, but during remote learning we have to be on different floors of the house,” said Tamiah. “Sometimes Taylor will finish her remote learning first and come to where I am and try to get my attention and be like: “Tamiah! Tamiah! Tamiah!” but other than that we are doing our own thing.”

Both sisters’ desire to return to school has been growing, largely because they’ve realized that being a student is actually a lot more “chill” when you’re learning alongside dozens of other kids. Tamiah says that having to learn remotely has caused her to view her desk at school almost like her bed: a place she enjoys being because it is where her stress levels are at their lowest. Taylor simply wants to see her friends in person again. 

“Tamiah and I have so many different apps that we can use to talk to our friends, and we do see them in our online classrooms, but I miss seeing them face-to-face,” Taylor said. “For now, I guess I will have to keep using Roblox to interact with them, but I hope we can go back to school soon.” 

Remote learning also means that the sisters are spending more of their day with their mom, Tamiko, who is also a CPS employee. Tamiko says one of the best parts of remote learning has been that their teachers have been providing additional support to make sure each student is staying on track. She’s actually found that she’s needed to help her daughters with their schoolwork less over the past few weeks thanks to small group lessons their teachers have hosted before each day’s larger classroom discussion. Tamiko’s focus is on ensuring Tamiah and Taylor are keeping their days balanced. 

“Since my girls are spending a larger part of their days using a screen, I’ve been encouraging them to print out their materials when they can and also to read, read, read!” Tamiko said. “We’ve also been trying to incorporate some family exercise time into our routine. We’ve fallen off a bit as of late, but hopefully we can get that going again.” 

Tamiah and Taylor can’t deny that they’ve had at least a few fun assignments each. They both created a COVID-19 time capsule to reflect on what they will remember about learning from home. Since she wants to be an author when she grows up, Tamiah has been spending time writing poems and has even been challenged to create her own dystopia in her writing. While their current situation may seem a bit dystopian, Tamiko says this extra quality time with her daughters is a bright spot. 

“If this were a normal school year, I’d have less flexibility to take breaks during the day to check in on how my girls are doing,” Tamiko said. “Getting to spend more consistent time with them has been the best part of all of this.”