The Dilemma
Perhaps your child’s school is opening this fall using some form of distance learning. Maybe it’s choosing in-person classes, leaving you uncomfortable about placing your child in large gatherings, especially if a family member has an underlying medical condition.

Meanwhile, as a concerned parent, you’re desperate to avoid a repetition of the less-than-ideal learning experience of last school year. As you struggle to ensure that your child’s educational and social needs are met, you’re still juggling all of your other responsibilities. You want to help your child, but you’re not sure how.

A Viable Solution
If you can afford it, a full-time online or in-person private teacher could solve your problem. If you can’t afford that or, if you believe your child can learn and grow better in a small group setting, a learning pod is the answer.

A learning pod (sometimes called a microschool or homeschool co-op) consists of 2 to 6 families pooling their resources. This enables parents to provide their children with a high-quality home-based education and much needed peer-to-peer social engagement. Currently, a well-run learning pod, with less COVID-19 exposure risk in a setting controlled by you, offers a safer alternative to traditional schools.

What Will it Take?
You’ll need to plan, coordinate, communicate and supervise. There are many things to consider when starting/joining a learning pod.

For in-person learning scenarios, the safety of all involved is of paramount importance. Even in learning pods, the risk of exposure to COVID-19 must be minimized by social distancing, wearing masks, systematic cleaning and disinfecting, and regular handwashing.

The physical location of your learning pod is extremely important. The best location will allow room to hold classes outside whenever possible and at a carefully prepared location inside when it’s not. Wherever classes are conducted, there must be room to social distance.

Finding a Teacher
Once you decide on a learning pod, you need to engage the right teacher. This can be an overwhelming task. Will you be advertising the position, reviewing applications on a job site or working with a professional headhunter?

Once you have selected a teacher, it’s essential that she or he be thoroughly vetted.

It is also vitally important to consider the teacher’s experience and skill level. For an elementary-level learning pod you should be looking for a teacher with multiple subject expertise – someone who can teach all the subjects proficiently. At the middle and high school level, the teacher should be especially knowledgeable and skilled in the specific subjects (English, Math, Science etc.) that students in your learning pod are studying.

To work in a school setting, teachers need to be:
  • Cleared by a recent negative TB test
  • Live Scanned (fingerprinted) by the...
    • CA Department of Justice (DOJ) – conducts a California-ONLY criminal background check
    • FBI – conducts a criminal background check in the other 49 states

Can I hire a teacher as an “independent contractor”?
No, sorry – that’s illegal. It leaves you open to be sued by the state, the employee or both. Learn more here.

Are you Prepared to Become an Employer?
As an employer, you must cover the teacher with workers’ comp, liability and unemployment insurances – plus mandatory CA sick leave. When hiring a teacher by yourself, you’ll need to ensure that all those costs are considered in your calculations. This may all seem daunting but there’s no need to despair. Working with a professional staffing company will spare you most of this stress.

Partnering with an Educational Staffing Professional
If you work with a professional staffing company like Teachers On Reserve (TOR), we do it ALL for you. Since 1987, schools throughout California have chosen the professionals at TOR to help them find the best available teachers for their specific needs. We’ve hired and placed thousands of teachers all over California.

Our teachers are already:
  • Vetted
  • Fingerprinted
  • Insured
  • Trained
  • Prepared to succeed in multiple new learning environments

What About the Curriculum?
Whether your child’s school offers distance learning, in-person classes or a hybrid, it’s still responsible for the curriculum. Even in a learning pod situation, your students may still be required to attend the school’s daily or weekly online lessons/meetings. This can be incorporated as part of the learning pod agenda. In some cases, your school may be willing to provide your learning pod teacher with the curriculum and/or lesson plans.

Perhaps you’ve got your own curriculum from another source. A TOR Teacher can implement that for you. Maybe you even want a new curriculum designed from scratch. Teachers On Reserve can handle that too.

The Next Step
To create a successful learning pod, focus on:
  • Assembling students in the same grade level and class, when possible
  • Involving families that share your level of safety concern over the coronavirus
  • Maintaining clear communication with all pod members on...
    • Financial requirements
    • Hosting obligations
    • Safety compliance
  • Finding a thoroughly vetted and experienced teacher with a style that fits your group
  • Choosing a location with enough room to safely conduct class

Teachers On Reserve stands ready to help learning pod families, just as we have been helping individual families and schools since 1987. We have full- and part-time teachers on staff who are skilled and eager to get back into the classroom. Our teachers are NOT tutors. They know their way round curriculum, lesson plans, classroom management and the social needs of their students.

Every learning pod is unique, as is every student and parent. We’ll help support you, your child and your learning pod by customizing our approach to yours. We’d love to help you make the most of every learning day. Call Diane Ventura today at 800-457-1899 ext. 6 for a free consultation.