8 votes

Virus spurs unexpected test for US schools: Online learning

3 comments

  1. [2]
    kfwyre
    Link
    Tildes' resident educational pessimist checking in! My district completely failed to plan for distance learning and has spent the past week and a half, after the schools were closed, cobbling...

    Tildes' resident educational pessimist checking in!

    My district completely failed to plan for distance learning and has spent the past week and a half, after the schools were closed, cobbling together a weak and muddy response. The horses have already left the barn and only now are we considering whether we have sufficient shelter and grain for them under our roof. It also appears that, for much of their post-hoc planning, they were operating under the assumption that this was going to be a minor interruption of a week or two. Only now am I seeing any sort of indication that they're thinking longer term and realizing that this is going to be something we have to sustain for a while.

    It's very difficult for me to not be angry at this, as a family member of mine teaches at a college which started preparing for distance learning in mid-February. Their college issued the teachers technology, set up online learning platforms, and gave their staff trainings on how to use everything. Meanwhile, we're starting the process a week and a half after we closed, and so far it's mostly consisted of me and other "techy" teachers volunteering to help coworkers get Zoom up and running and teaching them how to use Google Classroom via group text.

    The other hard part about this is that, whenever there's a systemic failing in schools, we'll see a ramp up of "oustanding teacher" narratives who go "above and beyond". I'm already seeing this personally, in the context of my own job. There is nothing wrong with teachers who do this, and what they do is often legitimately inspirational. The problem is that what they are doing will get treated as the ideal, and anyone doing anything less than that will have the moral weight of not doing enough to help kids thrust upon them. All the while, the systemic failures that caused the need for such "above and beyond" measures is left unchecked.

    I'm someone who used to be one of those "above and beyond" people before I burnt out on it, because I realized I was effectively covering for a lack of leadership and resources in doing so. In the first school I worked in, they downsized and got rid of our librarian (as well as several other support staff roles). The library remained open only because of several of us teachers who volunteered our time and efforts to keep it semi-functional. It wouldn't be right for the students if they didn't have a library, right? So that's why we did what we did.

    At the second school I worked in, we didn't even have a library, but several other teachers and I created one by soliciting donations and spending untold, unpaid hours sorting, organizing, and labelling books. What we did was legitimately great. Inspirational! We provided access to literature to hundreds of underserved students. We built something we could be proud of. It warmed our hearts to see the books that we'd worked so hard to get enter circulation and be read and re-read by kids. After all, it wouldn't be right for the students if they didn't have a library, right?

    But doing this let my administration and district off the hook for their failure to have a library in the first place. The same thing is happening right now for a lot of schools, who are being let off the hook for a failure to plan for something we knew was coming and had plenty of forewarning for. Teachers will continue to step up to the plate and do more than our fair share because we care about kids, but I cannot tell you how demotivating it is to know how much that gets used against us.

    I realize I'm not in a spot to complain right now, especially with so many people either having to continue to work at potential risk to their health or flat out losing their jobs and having to worry about income. I fully understand that the fact that I can work from home and maintain an income is a huge privilege at this point in time. I do not take that for granted. It's just hard for me to sit by as educational institutions once again leave a mess for their students which teachers are then tasked to clean up.


    Epilogue, in case anyone is interested:

    That library that we took so much time and effort to create? Three years after its inception, after I and the other teachers who created it had left the school, it was dismantled and converted into an office. ELA teachers at the school weren't notified that this was going to happen and thus didn't even have a chance to poach some books for their own classroom libraries. As I understand it, a majority of the books that we gathered were donated to somewhere outside of the school or just tossed in the trash. If you want to understand why I'm so pessimistic, please understand that this event perfectly sums up my experience as a career teacher.

    8 votes
    1. Weldawadyathink
      Link Parent
      This won’t help with your pessimism, but I have another anecdote for you. My dad’s school can’t make any good decisions. They have moved to distance learning, but are offering little to no support...

      This won’t help with your pessimism, but I have another anecdote for you. My dad’s school can’t make any good decisions. They have moved to distance learning, but are offering little to no support for the teachers. They are requiring the teachers come in to school to work instead of working from home (without students). On top of that, they have prohibited the student teachers from being on campus, so they can’t even do their jobs.

      3 votes
  2. moonbathers
    Link
    I feel bad for both the teachers and kids who are going to have to deal with this. Everyone's experience is going to suffer even in the best of cases.

    I feel bad for both the teachers and kids who are going to have to deal with this. Everyone's experience is going to suffer even in the best of cases.

    2 votes