Since mid-March, teachers have scrambled to find ways to deliver content in new, remote ways while keeping the content accessible and relevant to their broad and diverse audience.
Some of them had to come up to speed with the technology tools they would come to rely on in this new delivery mode, taking online courses themselves. Teachers have relied on the creativity and generosity of their colleagues and administrative leaders to develop and share new tools, platforms and techniques to adapt curriculum content to home-based school delivery. With only remote communication tools at their disposal, teachers are tailoring material designed for traditional instruction to remote or online delivery. It has been a whirlwind.
Many teachers are parents, too, and face the struggles of balancing their students’ needs with those of their families. At least they have a leg up on most parents as they know what could or should be happening with their children’s education, and they understand the technology.
The biggest challenge for Millbrook South Cavan Grade Seven teacher Lisa Noble’s students in this new school model is the diversity of their situation. Some students are trying to complete all of their school work on a cell phone, while others are sharing a laptop with parents and multiple siblings. Tablets have been made available by the schools for those lacking equipment, and paper copies of school resources are available if requested.
Some of Lisa’s students are excited to be home, particularly those on a farm, while others are feeling isolated, spending days on their own or taking care of younger siblings. Parents at home are trying to work or worrying about mounting bills. Some are feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility of working from home (usually on a computer), running the household and helping their children understand their homework.
Lisa tries to encourage parents to lighten up on themselves. Parents are not teachers, nor are they expected to be, at least not by the school system. Teachers are available to help, that is their job. If a child is stuck, they should not hesitate to reach out to their teacher if possible.
Lisa has teenage children at home who are independent workers, and both she and her husband are currently working from home. With reliable wifi, multiple devices and room to spread out to find a peaceful environment, she counts herself among the lucky ones. Some of her colleagues are paying wifi overage fees trying to reach all of their students, and juggling the needs of their own young families.
This fall, Lisa will join the grade six and seven South Cavan students at Crestwood Intermediate. Last week she and some coworkers were developing a welcome video as an orientation tool to alleviate the additional student concern about that next transition.
The bottom line for parents is not to feel judged by teachers if school work is falling behind. Just do what you can. Given the current pressures and anxiety, relationships and mental health come before curriculum on the priority list.
There are many unknowns for the school year ahead. How will this experience affect teachers’ view about remote curriculum delivery? There is concern that pending budget pressures will result in the adoption of at least some online course delivery by government authorities. Will students and families embrace an on-line learning initiative? Will they have a choice in the matter? KG