Teacher Crystal Steidley-Millington. (Bryan Millington photo)

With the reality of more remote learning staring parents in the face, the fear of how their children will cope with school on the computer can be very real. With that in mind, Evanston Township High School teacher Crystal Steidley-Millington has developed a series of workshops to help children navigate the world of e-learning.

ETHS begins school next month via e-learning, and will stay with that mode until the coronavirus pandemic is less of a threat. In other words, it could be e-school all year. District 65, the elementary school feeder system for the high school, is remote, and hoping to have in-person classes starting the end of September. But that, too, depends on COVID.

The coronavirus, of course, means the workshops are online. But that’s actually helpful for teaching children what are known as “executive functioning” skills for dealing with remote learning. Steidley-Millington says while young people may be tech savvy, far more so than their parents, children may struggle with learning at home, when a teacher is not there in person to see that the child is lost.

“Yes, children can navigate the internet and the technical aspect,” Steidley-Millington says, “but setting aside the TikTok and the phone and focusing on the challenge at hand” may not be as easy as many adults think.

The six online workshops are aimed at junior high and high school students. Each session lasts about an hour. Topics include utilizing Google to stay organized, time management,” brain breaks,” and communication and self-care.

Of course, those are skills which can apply to any age. But for a student working with a different learning system, they can be especially useful. Take communication and self-care, for example. Steidley-Millington says students may feel uncomfortable asking for help while online. “It’s difficult for a student to say this is hard, I don’t know what I’m doing,” she says. Getting new skills can help them speak up, online that is.

Hilary Scott of Glencoe enrolled her two sons in the workshops. Her boys, ages 12 and 13, do well in school. But Scott doesn’t know yet whether classes where 12-year old Thomas and 13-year old Alex attend will be all in person (not likely), all-remote, or a hybrid mix. Her sons “understand the strangeness of the situation,” Scott says.

And even though Thomas and Alex are academically inclined and motivated, Scott says both boys felt they needed more organizational skills for online learning. What they learn in the workshops are “another set of tools to keep them organized,” Scott says.

There’s no question parents are searching for ways to help their children. There’s even a Facebook page called ‘Coronavirus Coping for Parents and Kids.”  Steidley-Millington posted her idea on that site, and got some attention.

“My hope is to make the courses available to help students be more successful in e-learning,” she says.

“It’s not about the technology, but how to take responsibility for your own learning.”

Each session costs $50, although that’s adjustable based on a parent’s situation. For further information, you can contact Crystal.steidley@gmail.com.

If you are a parent, teacher, or student, and you’re involved in a program to help navigate the new world of remote learning, Evanston Now would like to hear about it. Please email reporter Jeff Hirsh at jeff@evanstonnow.com with your information.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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