By EMMA GUEVARA
Schools closing because of a global pandemic was not how I anticipated the second semester of this school year would go. My students were supposed to finish Kindergarten with their peers, excited for moving a classroom over to first grade in the fall. For now, that will most likely not be the case.
As most people know, one of the main issues with a shelter-in-place order from the county was that schools could no longer convene. The solution? Distance teaching: teachers could conduct classes over video calls, assigning classwork that students submitted online. No one would come into contact with one another.
It sounds simple, but it is not. The idea behind distance teaching, or distance learning, assumes so much of parents, and it is because of these assumptions that distance teaching does not work.
It assumes that a) parents understand technology enough to work a video call, access assignments, download and send assignments back, etc., b) parents have a device that their child can use for their schoolwork, c) parents are able to afford internet access, and d) parents do not have a job in which they are considered “essential workers,” meaning they can be at home with their child and help them with their schoolwork.
Even those four points bring up many more caveats. For example, even if a parent is not considered an essential worker, they still have to work from home. They are thus unable to give their undivided attention to their child. Most teachers I know have children (yes, plural). How is a teacher expected to teach from home while they have more than one student at home that needs to “distance learn”?
Distance learning also assumes a lot from school districts.
A common issue we have seen across the Valley has been equipment access. A large portion of students are unable to afford a laptop or a tablet to complete schoolwork. Districts’ supposed solution was to lend devices to students who needed them. Still, most districts do not have enough devices for all students If a student has a sibling who also needs a device, the district would only issue one device per family, and the students would have to share.
This doubling-up drains time for parents who need each child to do their work one at a time while also making sure their other children remain occupied. This is all assuming that parents can afford access to the internet. If they cannot, then the district must provide a hotspot. If the district cannot ensure a hotspot, it creates more issues.
As a teacher, I never signed up to work for Best Buy’s Geek Squad. I feel like the majority of the work that I have done since we began distance teaching is IT support. Every app and website we use requires a username and password. In my Kinder class alone, parents are responsible for knowing over four sets of log-in credentials for their child. I have gotten plenty of comments from parents expressing their exasperation at the sheer volume of log-in credentials they are now responsible for.
This issue might be a little bit easier for teachers who have older students. Still, from what I have experienced, age does not matter: computer literacy is lacking in all age groups. Administrators require nearly the same amount of work as we give our students in class. So, parents, if you were wondering why your children’s teachers are assigning so much work so quickly, I promise you, it is not because we want to.
As I have seen from the administration, they are having the same issue, with these orders coming from their superiors. It has turned into a chain of insatiable demand to justify why any of us should get paid. Teaching is not a commodified industry. Our pay should not depend on what has been produced because we are not trying to produce anything. We are trying to mold, trying to guide. Teaching is an investment in society and the future. No one in education should have to justify why we should get paid. The entirety of our society needs to be kinder in our approach to the situation at hand.
This is a real emergency. When a deadly virus runs rampant, making sure a five-year-old draws a picture of a plant to ensure their teacher’s pay can seem arbitrary. Frankly, we are at the end of the school year already, so the amount of teaching lost will not impact students significantly. Obviously modifications for the next school year will have to be made, and there will be changes, but this is a reality for every aspect of our lives.
One thing about this pandemic is certain: nothing will be the same as it was before. Instead of causing all of this unnecessary stress to justify why the public education system should get paid, we end the school year a little early. Most school districts planned to end the year by the end of May, and we are already a week and a half into April. It is not that much of a loss.
Rather than stressing out students and parents, who are already scared due to the current situation, we should make this a time where students can enjoy being at home. There they will have the time to explore the outdoors, read, and spend time with their families. The 2019-2020 school year needs to end early. We are living through a major historical event. It is time to accept that and behave accordingly.