Clifton college student, veteran and mother shares experience transitioning to online learning

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Patrice Wheeler (Berkeley College photo)
Urban News Staff Reports

Patrice Wheeler of Clifton, NJ, was most comfortable taking her courses to earn a Bachelor of Business Administration degree on campus at Berkeley College, even though she was also familiar with taking courses online before the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. “I enjoyed seeing my classmates in the classroom,” said Wheeler, mother of three girls – two toddlers and a 6-year-old kindergartner – and former U.S. Army veteran. “I prefer the learning interactions in person. I have better discipline on site. I love my kids, but I never intended to be a stay-at-home mom.”

Wheeler’s at-home schedule used to be more typical of two-parent working families. Her husband worked as a nurse on the day shift. She helped the children get ready for day care and school. Then she drove to campus to take her courses and complete her assignments as a work-study student there.

“When we were out during the day, with the young ones in day care or school, and us at work, it made coming home and seeing them so much sweeter,” she said.

Through it all, Wheeler takes things in stride. “I’m not usually a stressed-out person, so I am going with the flow,” she said. 

“Now we have an optional in-class meeting time and we can post questions there. All of the professors respond right away. They are very understanding and they are people who are parents themselves, and may have kids at home, too. It is not as bad as I thought it would be (taking classes online). The professors are all there if I need them. They are flexible. They prepared us about a week before we started, showed us how to use Zoom as a class. Trying to stay focused, like it’s a workday, helps. I cannot stay in bed and watch the morning show all day.”

Nowadays the situation is different. She shares her computer with her 6-year old, who has about five hours of schoolwork daily.

“The 6-year-old is at the table in the morning doing math. Reading is in the afternoon, but she loses focus after lunch,” Wheeler said. “The school has great materials for them and the teacher sends an email every day. I just have to watch so that she doesn’t get her little finger on the touch screen so I do not lose my schoolwork. After the kids go to bed around 8:30 or 9 p.m., then I can do my assignments … or I can if I wake up in the middle of the night.”

The day of this interview, Wheeler received a call from her husband who said he may have to stay overnight that week at the hospital.

Wheeler also is a long-time volunteer with Welcome Home Vets, helping other veterans and their families find what they need, through education, housing, fundraising for scholarships and so on.

Wheeler notes that as a college student and parent, taking online courses “Is not on your time. It is on your kids’ time.”

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