The start of a virtual school year is overwhelming, and now you’re planning to tackle a new beast: pandemic learning pod.
There’s a ton of new vocabulary and methods to digest, but don’t freak out. The beauty of this trend in at-home learning is that it’s yours to individualize.
Your learning pod is for you, your children, and each of your families’ needs, meaning there’s no wrong or right way to execute a pod--it’s all up to you!
We’ve created a handy brainstorming worksheet for you to plan out the logistics, terms, and expectations of your pod.
Hang in there parents, you’ve got this!
Creating a mission statement might seem silly, but you’re essentially creating a mini-business with your pod parents.
This new venture requires a shared vision and objective for the group. If your group ever hits bumps down the road, this will act as your moral compass.
Take time to create a mission statement and identify what you value as an individual family and as a pod group.
- What does this pod stand for?
- What's our objective?
- What’s our shared vision?
Deciding on the duration, schedule, location(s) of learning and the structure of the pod is the second step in planning.
Set a calendar of logistics so you don’t scramble every week to figure out where to put the kids and who’s in charge of what.
- Where will the learning pod be held?
- Does the designated area have enough space to spread each individual 6 feet apart?
- Can the pod move to another location within the house or is it confined to one room?
Time & Schedule
- How often will the learning pod be held at one location? Will the learning pod change locations every week or every month?
- How often will children meet during the week?
- How long will each meeting be? When will it start and finish?
- What happens if a parent is late to pick-up their child?
- How many students do we want in one learning pod?
- How many different grade levels will we allow?
- Should we have pod positions?
- Pod Rep: Someone in charge of coordinating the pod including communications with the teacher and other parents
- Pod Accountant: Someone in charge of accounts both payable and receivable
- Pod Secretary: Someone in charge of administrative tasks like taking notes and scheduling meetings
After families come to a consensus on your pod’s norms and precautionary behavior, it’s best to revisit these protocols regularly.
As advice and guidelines around COVID change, many people’s personal and household protocols change, too.
The primary goal is to remain in constant communication as time passes and new situations arise that you may not have anticipated.
- Will children wear masks?
- If they don’t wear masks, what are our expectations of quarantine and isolation?
- If children don’t wear masks, will the teacher?
- If children wear masks, how often will they get a “mask-free” break?
- Will children’s temperatures be checked before each gathering?
- How often will equipment and surfaces touched during the learning pod be cleaned?
- How often will everyone present in the pod wash their hands?
- Will children be able to share food?
- Who will pay for sanitizer, cleaning supplies, and thermometers?
- What expectations do we have for adults, in terms of travel and avoiding infection?
- Do we need to notify the group if we’re traveling or engaging in high-risk activities? (i.e. dine in restaurants, large family gatherings, etc)
- Do all learning pod participants need to take a shower and wear new clothes before each gathering?
- What will be our protocol if someone tests positive for COVID?
- Are you requiring the teacher and/or families to be tested for COVID before and during the duration of the pandemic pod?
Identify your group’s educational expectations to determine the set-up of each learning day.
Determine whether families are interested in taking time for meditation or activities about diversity and inclusion.
- Will the educator teach according to a given school curriculum, provide supplemental learning, or create alternative curriculum?
- If an alternative curriculum (different from that of regular school), who will work together to create it?
- How much time should be designated for lesson review? For new learning?
- Is the curriculum contained in our facility or can the teacher take the students outside to surrounding areas?
- How will academic progress be assessed?
- Will there be snack/meal breaks? How often?
- Will there be a hand wash/ hand sanitizer break? How often?
Other Enrichment Activities
- Do you want to include activities that go beyond the standard curriculum?
- What kind of activities? (i.e. diversity, restorative justice, religion, etc)
- How often will the children engage in these activities?
- Will the same educator lead these activities?
Before starting the search for educators, agree on what qualities and qualifications an educator should have. Having a list will focus your search and narrow your options to exactly what your pod needs. Besides the basic questions below, there are many aspects to consider when finding the best educator for your family, like personality and educational values.
Also decide whether your pod will hire independent contractors or through a company. The former method gives your pod more autonomy, but the latter can take care of all the payroll, insurance, and legal paperwork for you.
- How experienced do we want educators? I.e. Do we want someone who has taught for at least 5 years?
- What qualifications do we want the teacher to have? Are there any special needs or requests?
- Will we require to see a sample of the educator’s curriculum?
- How will we hire the teacher? Will we pay a company to do it?
- If not, who will be in charge of searching, interviewing, vetting, reference checking potential teachers to work with?
- Will interviews include both phone and in-person?
Wages (if hiring a contractor)
- How will we support the teacher in receiving a living wage that values their labor?
- Will we withhold taxes from the teacher’s paycheck?
Safety & Liability
Liability and workers’ compensation can quickly become a huge ordeal if you don’t already have a gameplan.
If your group prefers not dealing with legal cases and auditing, then hiring an educator through a company will be more appealing.
- If there’s an accident, who is liable?
- Can we buy insurance for this?
- Do we waive liability?
- Who will provide emergency contact information?
- What other adults will be in the host home during these school-hours?
- Will you provide sick days, vacation days, and healthcare coverage?
For both the safety and effectiveness of your learning pod, decide on the number and grade levels of participating students.
To get your money’s worth, ensure that every student is ready for each learning pod day. One student who doesn’t complete their homework can end up using most of the educator’s time to catch up on the lesson.
- What are some expectations we should have for our children to ensure that each gathering is productive?
Finances should never be vague.
Be clear and confident in money details so there is no confusion or missed payments.
- How much is each family willing to pay?
- What if a family has more than one child in the learning pod?
- Who will be the main facilitator that collects the money to pay for the educator?
- How will we pay? (venmo, paypal)
- How frequently do we pay?
- What happens if a child is “absent”? Does that family still pay for that day?
- Are school supplies included in the cost? Do we need to pay for extra supplies?
- Is prep time included in the cost? How do we want to compensate or negotiate teacher’s prep time?
Determine how to settle conflicts before they arise.
Having clear guidelines on how to manage conflict helps reduce the impact of conflicts if they come.
Instead of feeling stress and reluctance, your pod will be prepared to handle anything.
- How will we manage conflict?
- How will we manage/raise dissatisfaction?
- How will we measure success?
Communication should remain ongoing throughout the usage of the learning pod. Families should meet regularly to discuss whether the learning pod is beneficial and progressing well.
Setting specific methods of communication helps organize important documents and messages. So if you ever need what one parent said or sent, you know where to look.
- How will we communicate day-to-day?
- How will we communicate about finances?
- How will we share important documents?
- How often will parents meet to discuss?
Diversity & Inclusion
Not every family will be able to afford the full price of participating in a learning pod, but we should commit to helping each other so that no child is left behind.
- Will we consider a sliding scale/fee for our pod or cohort?
- Are we open to committing to inviting 1 student with income disparity from our school?
- Are we open to creating an income-diverse pod in order to help bridge the equity gap?
- If so, are we open to supporting families with transportation, masks, and thermometers? Free group participation? Flexible location or scheduling?
- Are we open to including families with essential workers?
Terms of Commitment
As COVID cases decline, schools may decide to reopen schools or family situations may suddenly change.
Discuss now so your group can be fully prepared for future shifts.
- How long do we commit to doing this pod for?
- How much advance notice should families provide if they need or decide to leave the arrangement? Is this enough time to recruit another family?
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