Professors teaching their own kids to learn virtually, too

Roney and Coddington are teaching in-person, but their children are learning online

Mary Alice Russell

Many professors at Washington and Lee University are teaching more than just their own classes this year. They also have to help their own children navigate online learning.

One week before Lexington classrooms were supposed to open for in-person learning, the Lexington School Board made the decision to transition to online schooling. The city of Lexington only has two schools, Waddell Elementary and Lylburn Downing Middle School. All high-schoolers in the area go to Rockbridge County School. The county schools decided to go mainly virtual in early August.

Many families were impacted by the school board’s decision to go virtual, including some connected to Washington and Lee.

Kristina Roney, a visiting French professor, has three children. Her two oldest, Aidan and Evan, go to Rockbridge County High School, and her youngest, Audra, goes to Waddell. Roney had been hopeful that schools would have in person learning, especially for her daughter.

“We were really looking forward to her getting back to school just for the social interaction,” Roney said.

When Roney realized that school was going to be virtual, she and her husband came up with another way for their kids to socialize. They got a puppy, a Britany Spaniel named Sedona.

“They’d been wanting a dog for a long time and we weren’t in a really good position to get one, but we did because they just needed the companionship,” Roney said.

Roney moved with her family to Lexington in the summer of 2019. She said her children were still adjusting to their new lives when the pandemic hit in March. While her oldest son has been able to continue to play travel soccer with his team in Roanoke, her other children did not have as much as usual going on this summer.

When online learning started, Roney’s boys adjusted to it easily. But her daughter had some trouble getting used to the online learning. She had no problem sitting on her chrome book and looking at Zoom, but Roney said she had more trouble keeping up with assignments outside of Zoom.

Roney is teaching all of her classes in person, and while some of her students have to join online because they are quarantining, she said she feels like teaching French in-person is essential. She said her husband is working from home, but his job does not allow for many distractions.

Roney said her two boys have started helping out their little sister so that she can better stay on task.

Other professors are also adjusting to teaching while their children are learning virtually. Some are having an easier time with it than others.

Mark Coddington, an assistant journalism professor, has three kids. His wife works part time as a speech pathologist over Zoom, so he said he has been able to teach classes in person without feeling like he needs to be home.

“Because I basically have to be at school to get work done, she’s the one who’s mostly staying at home with our daughters as they do the virtual schooling,” Coddington said.

His two daughters go to Waddell. One is in kindergarten and the other is in second grade.

Coddington said he knows other professors are in a more difficult situation.

“I have it much easier than others because I have a spouse who is working part time and has a lot of flexibility to help the kids at home.”