“In our house, there’s a bit of action in the kitchen and then [her son] Patrick’s school starts at 8.35am and the rest of us are 8.45am. It just goes quiet and the whole house settles into class.”
Ms Straford works from the kitchen table to keep an eye on her children.
“My youngest will come out occasionally and say to me, ‘Are you in a class, Mum?’
“Sometimes I am in a class and he will just stand behind my shoulder and wave at the girls.”
While remote learning has been challenging for many students and their families, teachers are also experiencing stress and anxiety, Monash University’s Emily Berger said.
“The increased workload is made worse when educators have their own children at home engaging in remote learning,” Dr Berger said.
Academic Penny Van Bergen surveyed 210 primary and secondary teachers during the April lockdown and found many were really challenged by combining teaching and parenting at home.
“There’s a lot of scheduling, a lot of brain capacity to think about interacting with your own class while having your own child next to you with headphones on,” said Dr Van Bergen, who is associate professor of educational psychology at Macquarie University.
“Everybody thinks about teachers as being there for their students and I think they really have tried to be and have thought about ways they can do that, but often they have those dual roles,” she said.
“The important thing is for teachers to be looking after themselves and to be reaching out for help because it is such a tough role at the moment.”
Ms Straford said while her family would much rather be back at school, especially after such a long stint at home, there were advantages to lockdown 2.0.
“Some of the positives out of this are being at home with the kids and the school day finishes and no one has got anything on, so there’s time in the day,” she said.
“With four kids, there was a fair bit of after school activity going on around here. It hasn’t happened this year and I’m a bit scared about [returning to the packed schedule] next year.”
Ms Straford said the lockdown had extended her professional creativity and “shone a light on the absolute strength of the school community and the parent community, the kindnesses that have come through.”
“Fundamentally, teachers do this job because we love working with students and, so, they have been our greatest motivators,” she said.
“Yeah, it has been difficult … [but] I’m doing my best and I know as a parent that my kids’ teachers are doing an absolutely amazing job.”
Madeleine Heffernan edits The Age’s Monday education page