I find it hard to imagine what remote learning looks like for our low-income students. As a person who grew up in a low income neighborhood, it is even harder to imagine. COVID-19 has given me a glimpse into what it looks like and I don’t like what I see.
First, I imagined the number of kids that do not have access to technology at home. Then, I realized that is not the biggest problem. We could give each and every child access to technology at home; but would that result in actual learning? When I was younger, I lived in a single parent home, oldest of three and mom worked two jobs to make sure we had all our needs met. I was still luckier than most. My only problem would have been that I would have to help my siblings while doing my work because my mother would need to go to work.
I personally knew kids that were being abused on a regular basis at home. I will never forget the day I visited a friend and it looked like a scene in a crack house from an old nineties movie. I grew up with kids whose parents would pawn their things during hard times in order to pay the bills. Would those kids be able to learn remotely? I think there is value in remote learning and at this time this is all we have. Some teachers are being tasked with coming into the school in the middle of the call for “shelter in place” simply to make copies to send out to students. Is that even safe? If they don’t make the copies would those students get any assignments. Even when they do get the assignments…are they actually learning? So, is it worth the risk?
When this is over, I implore the country to reevaluate the idea of remote learning and e-learning. I don’t think we should get rid of it but there has to be a better way to prepare everyone for its use. I believe some of the following should take place:
- Remote learning days should be embedded throughout the school year once or twice a month. School Improvement days should become remote learning half days. That would help teachers improve their digital teaching skills by working together and give students regular practice so that it is easier for them to do on their own at home.
- Each state should ensure that all students have a device that they can use and replace any devices that are not returned. If any state is willing to implement remote learning they should be accountable for ensuring that each school has the necessary amount of access.
- All teachers should be required to have a technology element integrated into a lesson that is formally or informally observed each school year. The only way to effectively assist teachers that may require more help is by knowing what they are doing and giving them the opportunity to improve before it becomes mandatory.
Unfortunately, I can’t think of any way that we can make sure that students with jobs, students who must care for younger siblings and students in abusive homes can get effective use out of remote learning. As teachers, we always express how we can’t control the things that happen at home. We can’t. And that’s why I always put so much emphasis on creating a positive learning environment in school. That is the one thing I can control.
What do you do when you don’t even control that?