It’s a disservice to teachers and students to do otherwise
The Results are In
The results are in, and there’s a divide among parents about reopening schools.
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) sent out a two question survey to parents before December. They received 127,112 survey responses on behalf of their students regarding the decision to reopen schools.
Parents were told that if they wanted to stay fully remote, they didn’t have to fill out the survey. By not responding, they were choosing yes to virtual learning.
However, even with the choice to say nothing to remain in distance learning, 50.2% of the respondents still made a point to let MCPS know they’ve chosen to continue with virtual only classes. Only 49.8% of respondents chose to return to schools.
I’m a Reading Specialist, not a math teacher, but that would indicate that the majority of respondents chose to remain virtual for their children.
Despite the results parents are demand a reopening despite rising COVID-cases and the state’s inability to get the vaccinations out in a timely manner.
Parents are ignoring teachers concerns about the need for a safe working environment stating that “teachers need to get back to work.”
One respondent on social media told a teacher: “You signed a contract, you made a promise to teach. Get back in the classroom and do your job, or stop collecting the paycheck.”
I’m just going to put it out there: Teachers HAVE been working and it’s insulting and ignorant to say otherwise.
Teachers have been working longer hours to adjust to the new platforms for teaching and learning. When they aren’t actively teaching their students, they are collaborating with their colleagues to find new ways to engage students. They are attending meetings and trainings to find the best way to reach their learners. They are invested in their students. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be teachers.
Currently, the health metrics say schools should consider limited in-person or no-in person classes when test positivity rate is above 5% and daily new coronavirus cases within the community are greater than 15 cases per 100, 000 people.
At this time, Maryland is above the approved health metrics.
In Montgomery County there were 262 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday morning, alone.
The reopeners group has stated that should not be uses as “on-off switches” when determining closures and reopening. However, if we’re not using health metrics, what data should we use to guide the decisions to reopen school buildings?
A Disservice to Students and Teachers
In the push to reopen school buildings, parents are doing a huge disservice to students and teachers alike by not giving them the benefit of the doubt.
In addition to remaining healthy, teachers and students have discovered great benefits to distance learning. So much so, that those benefits should not be ignored.
Bottom Line: There ARE Benefits to Distance Learning
Here are what teachers want you to know about the benefits to distance learning:
- Finding Success: Many students who used to struggle most are THRIVING in a remote environment.
- Student learning increased: Teachers are able to spend their time teaching instead of solving the distractions of interpersonal conflicts between students.
- Less Disruptions: Students are learning the best way to get positive attention is to participate. Inappropriate comments get muted.
- Increased confidence: Students are able to get more one on one feedback when they share via chat or during office hours. This leads to increased confidence and academic risk taking.
- Increased engagement: Less distractions means more engagement
- Increased academic risk taking. Students can share an answer with the teacher without having to feel their answer is right before trying.
- Anonymity Students are able to participate anonymously which increases academic risk taking and participation. The more they participate, the more comfortable and confident they feel with the subject matter. Students are taking advantage of zoom chat or google slides to share their answers.
- Increased Participation: With the availability of different modes to participate, students feel less self-conscious about engaging in discussions and activities. Students participate more often and more freely.
- Increased relationship building: Students see the distractions in a teacher’s home, such as pets or children, which makes the teacher seem more approachable. It leads to shared interests and helps the students see the teacher as a person, not just the teacher behind a screen. One teacher was able to ask his students about the holidays they celebrate when he could see the decorations around their learning space. Students eagerly shared their home decorations and how they celebrate. Another teacher takes the opportunity to do optional cooking lessons with her students. For middle and high schoolers, they are no longer tied to rushing to get to their next class. As a result, teachers are able to open their classes earlier to allow time for socialization. The extra time can also be used for clarification on assignments or getting to know one another.
- More opportunities to learn skills: My son’s fourth grade teacher did an optional bonus activity making “Muddy Buddies” with the class. She had 100% participation. The kids were excited and had no idea that they were skill building: learning to read for information, following directions, and executive functioning. They had no idea that those skills were re-enforced. They thought it was a fun holiday project with their teacher.
- Community The students see that they are all in this together. They see their teachers are working from home with their own distractions. It lets them know that everyone is doing the same thing.
- Flexibility (An important soft skill) Life does not go smoothly. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we need to be flexible.
- Co-teaching and breakout rooms means that more students are getting feedback and individual attention. Teachers are able to work with 4–5 students at time in break out rooms lending time for more discussion and in-depth learning.
- Quick informal check for understanding Teachers are able to use a variety of online tools to do check for understanding and modify the lesson as needed.
- Increased parent Involvement and communication: Teachers are able to see parents and guardians in the moment and resolve issues quickly without lengthy back and forth phone calls or emails.
The reopening of schools should not be parents versus teachers. I think we can all agree that teachers would like to be in the classrooms with their students. BUT teachers should be afforded the ability to go back to the classroom without endangering their lives.
The focus should be looking at safety measures such as efficient ventilation, smaller class sizes, maintaining physical distancing, mandated mask wearing, availability of hand sanitizer, and accessibility to soap and water.
MCPS will meet on January 12, 2020 to determine if Metrics can be met by February 1st to begin the first phase of students back in the classroom.
Heather Jauquet holds a Masters of Science degree a Reading Specialist from Johns Hopkins University.