In response to your editorial, I am a native of Brownsville, born and raised. I am an elementary school teacher in Houston. I would say my perspective and experience is opposite to yours.
No one could have anticipated not being in school in the second semester. We all expected school to go on as usual; for prom to take place, graduation ceremonies to proceed, and to end the school year together as we wish students farewell to the next grade level; this is no longer the case. The reality is that we were suddenly amid a global pandemic due to a new and emerging unknown virus.
I would admit, we are all not going to have the same experience with distance learning on the fly; some will adapt better than others. Due to no longer convening at the brick and mortar campus, we must now find a new alternative: either distance learning or virtual learning. Ultimately, this is for the safety and health of all involved.You state, “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,” but you are wrong-it can and is working. No one ever assumed “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,” but we will all have to make changes in our daily routines, and skills.
I have some parents that are stay-at-home parents; some stay at home because they have lost their jobs; some are working from home, while others are continuing to work because they are essential. I have parents that do only have one shared device at home for their children to use, parents who are working and still making sacrifices to teach their kids and support their education. There are teachers like myself, who are teaching from home while taking care of our kids (in my case a 1.5-year-old and an 8-year-old). But you know what? We are all adapting and doing just fine.
Distance learning assumes a lot from every stakeholder, not only school districts.
Access to technology is not only an issue in the RGV, but it is also an issue everywhere right now. My district acted early during our week of spring break March 9-13th by contacting every parent of every student and having them complete a Technology Census to determine which students do not have internet access and/or access to a technology device of any kind. This allowed my district to provide resources of free internet or hotspots, and distribute loaner devices. In addition, during our first week of DL (distance learning), each campus contacted parents to come by and pick up student consumable textbooks and paperwork packets. The district created lessons for all subjects per grade level to be sent home.
For issues surrounding distributing only one shared device per household, I would recommend mailing packets of work or distributing consumable textbooks, being flexible, and making accommodations to ensure all students have an outlet for learning.
You state, “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.” I, too, have parents with four children (elementary, JR high, and HS) with a shared device, but they make do, and they adapt. Parents don’t need to “afford” the internet because there are several providers offering internet free of charge or free hotspots.
As a teacher, “I never signed up to work for Best Buy’s Geek Squad” either, but as a teacher, I feel it is my duty to teach my students and my parents. My parents would be the first ones to tell you how far above and beyond I have gone to help them with anything and everything to ensure their child continues to have a quality education. I have created how-to videos on www.screencastomatic.com to make it easy to show parents and students how to view virtual class recorded videos, how to access the online grade book, how to access the student portal Clever, how to access other websites, how to access class dojo or their student portfolio, how to upload assignments, etc. I have been readily available even up to midnight at times, answering parents’ phone calls, emails, or text messages. I’ve been helping parents or students resolve technical issues on apps, websites, or devices.
Our district has since set up an email account for parents to use to contact our district technology department should they have any questions. They are ready to answer and assist as needed.
To resolve your issue of multiple usernames and passwords for multiple apps or websites, many programs allow the account administrator to change usernames and passwords. I have done this with my students and it is so much easier for them to remember.
None of this situation is easier for teachers, students, or parents because of age, as it is dependent upon their skill level. I would suggest speaking to your curriculum department if you think computer literacy is lacking in your school or district. As a prior computer technology instructor in elementary, I made sure my students (grades 1-5) knew how to log into a computer and were able to successfully create documents and presentations in Microsoft programs Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. By the end of the year, first graders created spreadsheets and presentations.
As a teacher, you should be able to make accommodations in your lessons and student expectations, especially right now. Cut back on the assigned work by having students do only half assignments, even or odd problems only, break tasks into sections by day, etc.
You seem to have a misconception about your salary. Our salary is not dependent upon work production or workload; it commensurates with years of experience.
Instead of educators throwing our hands up in the air, giving up, throwing in the towel, having an early summer break, we should be advocating for continuing to provide a quality education for our students. Like you well stated, “We are trying to mold, trying to guide. Teaching is an investment in society and the future… The entirety of our society needs to be kinder in our approach to the situation at hand.” No one could have foreseen a world pandemic of a new and emerging unknown virus or the effects that would follow. Perhaps for the RGV, you have just recently begun distance learning, but for many other districts in the state, such as in my area, we are entering week 5 of distance learning. So to simply end school now would not be an option because students would be denied a semester worth of quality education. If we stop school now, legally (TEA), we would have to make up the minutes missed unless they decide otherwise. Maybe that would mean a delayed 2020/2021 school year so students can make up the semester missed. We need to continue teaching through the end of the academic school year to give students the remainder of the skills they will need when they proceed to the next grade level.
According to nwea.org, “A more sobering trend is the pace of summer learning loss, which we calculated by estimating the ratio of summer loss to school-year gains for each grade. In the summer following third grade, students lose nearly 20 percent of their school-year gains in reading and 27 percent of their school-year gains in math. By the summer after seventh grade, students lose, on average, 36 percent of their school-year gains in reading and a whopping 50 percent of their school-year gains in math. In other words, summer learning loss increases with age through elementary and middle school – a troubling trend that should be examined further.”
I have found that by continuing to create stability in the lives of my students, it reduces their stress, gives them the anticipation of seeing their teacher and fellow classmates 3-4 times a week in our virtual classroom, we learn together, and even have fun together online. I reward them with a movie or virtual game on Kahoot or Quizizz and even play scavenger hunts. The teacher (myself), students, and parents all get involved, and we enjoy the fun we have together virtually for a few hours per week. This gets everyone’s mind off the effects of COVID-19 just for a little bit; it brings smiles to everyone’s faces and fills the room of each of our homes with forgotten laughter.
In closing, as a teacher, be flexible, understanding, make accommodations, work with your parents and students, maintain daily communication with them, and be as helpful as you can be. And be there! We are all learning together, and we will all get through this together.