The family perspective
Exploring the struggles that households face with working online
After relocating to his garage for his band Zoom call, the first thing that crossed junior Akshat Singh’s mind was the peace of his new setting. Singh, who lives in a 2-bedroom condo, shares a bedroom with his sister, a fourth grader who also needs to attend online classes. In order to get his own space, he has had to attend a few classes from his garage.
“My sister and I, we made a bunch of compromises,” Singh said. “Sometimes when she has a meeting, or when I have a class, or when we both have a class, we have to decide who will get out of the room and who stays in the room. So I come to my garage, [where] it’s peaceful and quiet, no interruptions from my family. I just make the best of what I have.”
Sophomore Manya Dua had a similar experience, yet one that later evolved as their family adapted to the situation. In Dua’s case, all her family members — her freshman brother, her father and her mother — are all working at the same time, leading to more “chaos.”
“It’s been a trouble rearranging everything because I share a room with my brother and we both need to be in a Zoom call at the same time,” Dua said. “So now I work in my parent’s room. My brother works in [our room]. I just like to have a separate room because it’s far away from my brother and all the hankering going on in our household.”
Problems such as those faced by Singh and Dua are a daily part of families’ lives since the shelter-in-place orders were put in effect. However, students are not the only ones affected by this shift.
English teacher Jireh Tanabe faces similar issues since she has two children to manage while simultaneously teaching her own classes. As a result, Tanabe says that her days seem much longer and she goes to bed tired everyday.
“It’s really, really hard,” Tanabe said. “I’ve had classes where one of my kids had a fit during [school] because there’s so much technology [and] new stuff for him that he freaks out because he doesn’t know how to do it [all]. And then there’s like 10 different platforms he’s on.”
When Tanabe realized that she would have to work online for the upcoming school year, her husband bought and installed a fiber-optic cable, a type of network cable that is designed for high-performance internet. Tanabe also bought a Google Nest in order to boost her WiFi.
“I think one of the [struggles] is WiFi for sure,” Tanabe said. “Second is space. Not everybody has the luxury of having their own space. And then the third thing that we’ve come up against as an obstacle is [that] the kids forget that they’re in class sometimes and they ask me for help even though I’m teaching and I’m working. Because they’re so used to having [me] at home in the summer, they forget that they should be asking their teacher.”
Singh’s father also realized the issue with WiFi, as three out of the four members of their family use Zoom synchronously. He upgraded their WiFi plan, after which, according to Singh, there have been no issues. At MVHS, 29% of the population faces spotty WiFi due to all family members being on Zoom at the same time, based on a survey of 339 students. On the other hand, Dua’s family did not make any changes to their WiFi, resulting in poor performance.
“[I have lagged out] a million times I think,” Dua said. “I actually missed something my teacher said because my dad, my brother and myself were using [the internet] at the same time and then I got disconnected from the Zoom call. I think that’s one of the [struggles] is that a lot of times I have to click on the WiFi like five times for it to work because I get disconnected fast.”
However, Singh believes that the whole experience has brought his family closer together, a sentiment shared by Dua. Both believe that after shifting to an online paradigm, their families have had more interaction and a lot more conversations.
“[We are] definitely closer because now, first of all, my sister and I, we argue a lot more,” Singh said. “Second of all, my dad, my mom, we talk a lot more now since I’m sitting at home [and] I have classes at home. So every time, now, there’s no excuse to not have lunch together or get together. It’s all together.”
Tanabe does not share this experience, instead feeling as though it is actually the opposite, despite her family being in the same house much more often. She feels this is because she is always in her own room for the entirety of the day, while her children are in their own.
“If anything, this is teaching them more independence, while they are still dependent on me,” Tanabe said. “I don’t cook as much and I’m just throwing stuff together. I’m exhausted at the end of the day and I have to grade a ton. So it’s been long days, long nights. It’s totally different.”
Looking ahead, Singh thinks that the system he is following currently will be functional for the rest of the year, due to the creation of his own personal space in the garage in addition to his room.
Dua is also confident that she can carry this forward if needed, as she is happy with how things are in her family currently. Tanabe has a different standpoint on making her situation work for the rest of the school year.
“The way I see it is we’re at the bottom of the learning curve, and the learning curve is very steep,” Tanabe said. “So hopefully here on out, it can only get better. If it means safety, then yes. It doesn’t matter whether or not I think I can do it, I have to do it. That or quit. And that’s not an option at this point.”