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Published 04/19/2020 | Reading Time 4 min 30 sec
By Jason Allen, a teacher and education blogger in the Atlanta area
NATIONAL — COVID-19 has done more than cause a health pandemic, economic scare and new adaptation to our social norms; it has uncovered the unreasonable and unrealistic ideals we have for children and parents matriculating through the public education system.
COVID-19 has shown us that education is not exempt from racial and socioeconomic inequalities and drastically needs to be reformed.
And while many adults struggle to work from home under the new pressures of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, we now expect children K-12 to actively work online Monday through Friday, as well — away from teachers and in the proximity of their parents who may or may not be available.
Many students are still developing ideas about the world. They’re discerning racism, facts versus fake news, as well as how to research to prove concrete claims. They’re learning about socialization skills and human behavior. Coupled with that, we expect them to be responsible and disciplined enough to sit in front of a computer and complete assignments multiple times and do it without adult supervision.
We can’t forget that COVID-19 reveals that our education system needs profound improvements to manage virtual learning for students struggling with reading!
Hence, we can’t expect children to use their screens for learning, while that same screen gives them access to social media, YouTube, games and many other applications and sites.
Online learning isn’t as easy as we think!
We label our students as the iGen/technology generation without considering the importance of basic foundational skills that we obtained through socialization at school. If students are grade-levels behind in Reading or Math, we should then anticipate them needing more support.
We continuously discuss the vast gaps in literacy while overlooking the existence of needing the ability to read in the world of tech.
Hence, the expectation that students will comprehend instructions on their own through technology is problematic when they struggle with reading comprehension in the classrooms.
As teachers, we often repeat instructions and condense information in ways that online curriculums and voice-overs simply can’t!
Students need teachers, whether they’re in front of them physically or convening with them virtually.
We cannot rely on automatically programmed systems to say the things that we would say without being able to sense whether the child truly understands the concepts.
Online learning isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. It simply just won’t work without the social engagement, personal attention and interaction between teachers, students, and their peers.
We must support and enable teachers. We need to create effective and easy methods to manage teacher preparation and certification programs. Teachers need to make salaries that allow them to focus on building up the instructional needs of students without having to work two to three jobs to survive because that’s exhausting.
In addition to the things that we are providing to our scholars while schools are temporarily shuttered, we have to create pathways for all children to be successful during this time.
We can’t work to stabilize the economy without securing our investment in the future. So during school closures, creating innovative schedules for scholars is key. Integrating technology by using apps such as Google classroom, Zoom and Facebook Live are ways to lead classes, forums, debates and other things to keep students occupied.
Online learning and teaching young people are not easy. So reach out to a teacher today and thank them for the work they do in teaching and learning.
Jason B. Allen is a Special Education Teacher at 7 Pillars Career Academy in Clayton County, Georgia. He is a member of the Association of American Educators (AAE) and an AAE Foundation Advocacy Fellow.