Silver Linings - Making the most out of Distance Learning

Monday, August 25th, my daughter returned to school. She went for two days and then was home again for two days. This is the hybrid model her school has adopted to reduce student density on campus. She has multiple masks in her backpack as P.E. and Choir both need to have a different mask. The hand washing culture has reached almost cult levels of indoctrination and 

COVID-19 is a horrible disease. Even those who recover can still have symptoms for months afterwards. The economic repercussions are likely to be felt for years to come. But I am an optimist. I believe that we will invent a vaccine and that things will go back to normal. And, to quote my most intelligent brother who studied in China, “The characters for CRISIS also mean OPPORTUNITY.” With all the changes we are dealing with as a family, there are certainly opportunities to help our kids and their future careers.

First I want to share a few observations of things that happened without any planning on my part. Benefits that may not have come about if it were not for our forced changes in work/life habits.

The Headhuter Dad’s wife is a disciplined women with a strong sense of obligation. She is working from home now due to COVID and she is on conference calls throughout the day with her colleagues. She communicates in both English and Japanese depending on the call. There is an aura of competence you can almost see when she is at work. For our daughter, I am very happy that she has a chance to see what a confident and successful woman looks like. She gets to hear how she interacts with adults in a work environment that would not normally be visible to her. Sure, my daughter probably wishes mommy would get off the phone and play Uno with her but that is what the weekends are for.

My son who is now into his 2nd year of college is also home and studying online for the 2nd semester in a row. He loves not having to get up early to ride the train to classes but certainly misses spending time with his friends. I think that the enforced idleness and continuation of life at home for him has been a bit of a spur to get him thinking more about work and careers. If for no other reason than to find a way to get out of the house and away from is overbearing parents!

Both children have had to learn how to communicate through video calls which even without COVID was becoming more common with global businesses. Sure they were at ease with electronics before this. I think that if I slipped their phones into their hands while sleeping they would both immediately start texting. But texting, even with the occasional selfie still has a feel of anonymity to it whereas a video call is really “in your face”. Video call presence is definitely a useful skill for interviews and business communication afterwards. I see it being used throughout all aspects of my day job as a recruiter.

Here are a few other ideas for what else can we do in the midst of global changes and quarantines to help our kids prepare for the future:

  1. If your child’s school is not teaching classes online you can still give them a chance to practice their video presence. Set up a call with Grandma and let your son lead the call. Host a family dinner with another school family and force your kids to stay on camera and actually talk!
  2. Practice your listening skills with your kids. Since you are bound to be thrown together more often now since you cannot go out, stop talking and be open to what they bring up (see the relevant HHD article here).
  3. Watch a movie together. What? "How is that going to help my kid and his career?" It will require some input from you either during or perhaps better after the movie but take the opportunity to share what you know about the different jobs people are doing in the movie. A lot (all?) of kids have no idea what it means to be a stock broker, doctor, plumber. The only career they see day in and day out with any detail is teacher!
  4. Get more involved in the classes and work your kids are doing in school. Grades do matter. If we are more actively supportive about what they are learning perhaps our kids will take a more focused interest in their studies. Time and energy are certainly components of learning but motivation ranks right up there. If our interest in our kids and what they are doing helps them to become even a little more motivated it can translate into real world results, maybe an A instead of a B.

Lastly, and I know that this one isn’t particularly related to careers and jobs for my kids, we have had the opportunity to spend more time together as a family in the last 6 months than in the last 6 years. That has to count for something.