Start of school brings dilemmas
Being one of the few states already back in school, Indiana has had a few glitches in a few school systems. Not that we are at fault; we just start school earlier than most states. I’ve been watching the news, reading articles and talking to teachers, parents and grandparents on their take about schools opening. Although I miss teaching, I’m not sure I’d want to still be doing it.
The teachers are overwhelmed, worn down and anxious. They do prefer teaching in person, but, due to COVID-19, it isn’t even close to the same prior to the virus.
Teachers, who aren’t paid enough already, should be considered front-line workers because they have now been put in that position. Many are working 14 to 16 hours a day, twice the hours for which they are paid. This isn’t even counting the hours spent at home planning and grading at night and on weekends. In many districts, the teachers are expected to teach in person and online, thus doubling their hours. (They also have the added task of sterilizing their rooms throughout the school day.)
Some districts, for grades 7 to 12, are doing a couple days in-person a week and online work the other days. Students in grades K to 6 are in person five days a week. All students have the option to do online learning at home.
With masks and distancing, it makes it harder to socialize with peers and, if you’re new to a school, it makes it harder to make new friends. Another drawback to in-school learning, young children are now found to carry the virus at a higher rate. Some students in high school and especially college are breaking COVID-19 protocols across the country and causing more spread of the virus.
Here are some experiences from a few teachers of pre-K to grade 12 with whom I talked.
A preschool teacher in New Albany said it is hard because they have limited use of manipulative materials, which are things they can touch. If they do use something, it must be bagged and only used for that child. Amazingly, the preschoolers are doing a terrific job with following the rules on masks and social distancing. So far, it has been easier than thought.
Elementary and middle school teachers appear to be hit the hardest. A first-grade teacher in Clarksville is responsible for her class, half which chose to learn in person and the other half opting for online. A middle school teacher in New Albany has the same scenario. Both are overwhelmed, worn out and frustrated. They spend 14 to 16 hours a day working in and out of class. Both have to answer many emails from parents and students and prepare for the next day. They are also spending more time than usual working on weekends. As I talked with each of them, on a weekend, they were getting emails from students and parents.
A secondary math teacher in central Indiana said her students were doing fine but she could only use tablets because of spreading germs. She couldn’t use her smart board for students to show work to the class. Students couldn’t work in pairs or groups. Her biggest problem was parents complaining about students being on their tablets all day. They have worn her down.
All the teachers did agree there has been a drastic reduction of in-person bullying. It has also curbed behavior problems because of the social distancing and masks.
I spoke with parents and grandparents. Most parents wanted their children back in school for in-person learning and socializing. They believe in-person learning is essential but say it has limits and socializing is difficult. Grandparents seemed more worried than parents. They worry about their grandchildren who have health issues such as allergies as well as them riding the bus in such close quarters. They were glad they did not have to make the decision regarding in-person and online learning.
With that said, teamwork is an important must. So, let’s help our teachers and our students. Routines and reinforcement are key to any kind of learning, regardless of the student’s way of learning or age. Stay connected with the teacher about what is taught each week and help by reinforcing daily, if able, and through the weekend. Most of all, keep in mind the teachers are doing the best they can. None of the glitches are their fault. Please be patient and keep the griping to a bare minimum and don’t constantly “bug” the teacher.
If you have chosen online learning, routine is the key. A digital timer also helps you to remember to get your kiddos up and moving for a break. You can conduct micro-schooling and in pods where parents take turns with a small “bubble” group helping with the learning. You can also hire a teacher to do the schoolwork with your child(ren). The internet has many sites that can give good suggestions.
The TV show “Good Morning America” had a piece about Parent University. It is a website where parents can get support for helping their children with online learning and more to help aid in the learning development of their children. It is offered in seven different languages. The website also offers discounts on laptops and the internet. The piece also mentioned that seven in 10 parents are worried their kids will fall behind. So far, 65,000 parents, in various school districts, have logged on for help.
On a less stressful note, check out “Kid Superintendent” on YouTube. It is entertaining and a motivator.
Good luck and remember, we are all in this together.