02 Sep

The idea of distance learning is not foreign to the world of post-secondary education, but it is getting a lot of attention in the K-12 education realm due to its reliance during the pandemic. The difference between the post-secondary distance learning and the K-12 learning we see currently are these: a lack of willingness of non-tech savvy educators and administrators to innovate technology into a supposedly 21st-century education and the willingness to challenge an antiquated system of classroom-based learning that did not work well prior to the COVID19 shutdown in the first place. As a veteran teacher, entrepreneur, administrator, and a mom, I want to give non-educators a more balanced view of distance learning that is not the typical “gloom and doom” as it’s being portrayed in the media and by others.

Myth #1: Only Teachers and the School Should be Responsible for Student’s Education, not Parents

Reality: EVERYONE is responsible, including the student AND the parent, for contributing to the child’s education. The relationship between school and home is one that can be described as a dedicated partnership. Teachers can’t do their job without the student, and the students can’t learn without support from both the teacher and the parent. Sadly many don’t understand that teachers depend on parents to provide the extra adult support, discipline, and accountability at home to the student because it’s naturally a part of the parent’s role. Unfortunately, over the years, this partnership has been degraded down to one where the parent doesn’t believe that their child’s education is their responsibility. This damages the united front between the adults and gives the child a chance to play both against each other, leading to a lot of unnecessary strife and the child not getting the best education possible.  Ultimately, parents must understand that having a united front with the school will only help their child’s education.

Myth #2: Students should receive live instruction via Zoom or Video Conferencing 6.5 hours a day, just like if they were in regular school

Reality: There is a stark difference between lecturing for 6.5 hours and what great teaching strategies are. It is a simple matter of  quantity vs. quality. The reason many are convinced that distance learning doesn’t work is that  many teachers and administrators are trying to emulate a traditional mode of teaching on a video conferencing platform. This is kind of like trying to put unleaded gas in a Tesla and then claiming the Tesla won’t run. -Teacher pedagogy always talks about less teacher talk more student talk-anaygy of trying to put gas in a tesla or trying to put a carborator in a tesla, it’s not going to work and you habe to reevaluate your whole style of teaching to make it effective.

Myth #3: Teachers and school staff shouldn’t be worried about being exposed to COVID19 because kids have a low transmission rate

Myth #4. Schools Should Just Open Back Up Since They Got Extra Money From the Government 

Reality: Teachers are freaked out for several reasons when it comes to in-person learning during the pandemic. However, I believe that the fear of catching a deadly virus from a child sits at number one on most educator’s lists. Many may not be aware of this trend, but it is well known at school sites that a large number of parents knowingly drop off their visibly sick students during non-pandemic times to get a “break” or so they can go to work and not be inconvenienced with having to take time off. What would stop them from doing the same during the pandemic? What about the well-meaning staff members who agree to “bend the rules just this once” and allow a child with a fever in because they know the family and mom and dad need to go to work? Once it is known that the child is ill, then it’s mandatory quarantine for everyone at the site. This situation has already happened in many school districts across the nation.  It can turn out to be a real liability and disruptive to learning.#2. Many schools, especially in urban areas aren’t equipped to handle the protocols that are put into place to protect both the student and the staff. And buildings and classrooms are not conducive to social distancing.  Before the pandemic, many of the schools I worked at did not have hand soap or paper towels in any of the student bathrooms, due to student vandalism or just plain budgeting shortfalls. How would frequent handwashing even be implemented when there aren’t even soap or paper towel dispensers in the restrooms? Also, in my 11 years, I’ve had to purchase my own classroom cleaning supplies, printer paper, Kleenex, pencils, notebooks, etc. for my students. What gives me the idea that when I need the required PPE or hand sanitizer that I’ll have access to that either? Lastly, in regards to social distancing, it’s hard to envision how that would work effectively. A few years back I taught at a middle school with a population of nearly 1200 students. My math class routinely had 36+ students at one time crammed into my classroom (an outdoor portable), during several periods of the day. I distinctly remember numerous times not having enough desks for students to sit in, so they either shared a small desk with another student or sat on the floor using their lap as a writing surface. What is the plan for classes of this size? How can we enforce a 6 ft apart rule when there would literally be no place to put the students.     All in all, teachers have lost hope in the integrity of the public school and local administrators to actually follow through with the protocol and make sure the supplies that teachers and students desperately need are available. With that said, I wouldn’t be rushing back either if I were them.        

Reality: There is no definite protocol or plan for return put into place by schools or politions. The media has been touting the possibility of a speedy return to in-person instruction. Even politicians such as California governor Gavin Newsome, Mayor of San Francisco, and President Joe Biden have jumped on the ‘get kids back in school’ train. Even if these politicians actually had the power to get the students and teachers back to school, they have not given the extra funds to the schools nor the roadmap to how it should be done. Also, many school boards, superintendents, administrators, and union negotiators haven’t figured out plans, much less even prepared school sites for students again. That’s like building an airplane while you are trying to fly it to your destination. If it fails you crash. Everyone needs to be on the same page when it comes to a return to in-person learning plan to ensure safety for everyone.    

Myth #5: Students are Experiencing Massive Amounts of Learning Loss Since the Pandemic hit due to the sudden closure of schools in March 2020     

Reality: When the pandemic hit in March, instruction had already pretty much completed for the year in the local public schools so standardized testing prep could begin.
Few parents and non-educators know this, but it is routine in California for instruction to stop mid to late March so teachers have time to prepare students to take the annual Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC). The test usually happens in either April or May and require that students and staff be prepared for this mandatory assessment process. Teachers end up spending all the instructional time up until the testing window administering practice tests, reviewing specific skills, among other things to prepare students. After the test is complete, there are only a few weeks left in the school year and teachers commonly don’t teach anything new because they have been really drilling the students in preparation for the test. The learning loss that many parents claimed happened was most likely already a problem preCovid19. One of the unexpected byproducts of the pandemic was that, through distance learning, a light was shed on learning issues that otherwise would have gone unnoticed by many parents. The silver lining is that despite the difficulty of the transition, it gave parents a bigger insight into their child’s education whether they wanted it or not.
Hopefully, these comparisons have helped people see both sides of distance learning. It is very important to have all perspectives before an educated decision is made about whether a group of people are wrong or even if a certain practice is wrong. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions but I personally believe that hearing all sides to a story can be helpful to put things into perspective.

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