Learn from pandemic
No reasonable person can blame public school teachers and/or officials for not being ready for the COVID-19 shutdown. For years, in a much different context, many of them have been recommending two steps that, had they been implemented fully, would have helped students and teachers deal with the extended break from in-person classes.
We refer to ensuring every student has some sort of computer and vastly increasing access to internet service, of course. Many children do not have computers at home and many do not have internet service there.
Removing those obstacles will take time and money. We already knew that. Both initiatives need to be viewed as high priorities.
One reason for that was cited during a teleconference meeting of the Indian Creek Local Board of Education last week. During a report on distance-learning practices being employed to help students, Indian Creek Education Association President Karen Lloyd discussed technology limitations. “When high school teachers have hundreds of students and they have trouble connecting … they’ve been making more efforts to really connect with parents,” Lloyd told board members.
Precisely. Parents are always critical to the education process. Their importance grows exponentially when students must learn from home, rather than in classrooms.
A significant number of parents do not seem to have adopted the role of surrogate teachers, however. Throughout our area, teachers report some students are not completing the homework assignments they have been given. Hence, the need, as Lloyd mentioned, to connect with parents and attempt to persuade them to act as enforcers for schools.
Most school districts seem to have adopted a lenient attitude toward completion of assignments during the shutdown. They have little choice. No one saw this coming.
Lessons learned from the shutdown — about technology and how to cope with gaps in its availability, and about parental cooperation and failures in that respect — need to be put to use in preparing for the next epidemic. No one can say when, but there will be a next time.