Last week Governor Gavin Newsom hinted at a return-to-campus deal that would be released on Friday; however, the public is still awaiting for an update as the discussion continues.
Remote learning has changed the lives of students and teachers and everyone is eager for its end. Policy makers are clamoring to put together a plan. However, the matter of returning to campus is much more complicated than it seems.
Although remote learning has created new problems, it has also exposed pre-existing ones. The education system has been failing students and teachers for years. Perhaps now is a good time to rethink the way schools can best benefit their students and teachers alike.
“We all want to be back — but we want to go back to normal,” said Erin Durante, a sixth grade teacher at Pony Express Elementary. “The problem with ‘normal’ is that the services were inadequate to begin with and fell to the most part to teachers. Going back to the way things were shouldn’t be an option.”
April Braun, an English teacher at Rosemont High School, shares the same views.
She has been particularly worried about her students who do not have good home lives. Now that going to school is no longer an option, they are forced to endure an unhealthy environment on the daily.
Child welfare experts are warning about increases in child abuse during this time. Braun used to be able to step in when students would show concerning signs. With remote learning, these signs are undetectable.
“At school, if I see somebody [that looks] like they haven’t showered in a while or […] wearing the same clothes, I can reach out and figure out if I can get them some clothes or call home and make sure everything’s okay,” Braun explained.
However, now that she goes through each day teaching to a bunch of black screens, she is no longer able to check on their well being.
Another concern revolves around how students are falling behind normal standards.
According to surveys by the RAND Corporation, forty percent of teachers are requesting help to catch their students up to grade level. Studies by McKinsey and Company predict that students will lose five to nine months of learning.
There has been discussion about a possible extension to the school year to give students and teachers more time to catch up.
Some students and teachers seem to have a different view on the matter.
Vladyslava Noga, a senior at Rosemont High School, expressed her distaste for such an extension and believes it would even have the opposite intended effect.
“We may not complete the course load that is done in the regular year, but I think that’s fine because given the circumstances that we are in right now,” Noga said.
“I don’t think [the extension] going to be effective because the students will be frustrated that they still have to go to school and they’re just going to block out everything.”
Braun also agrees that this initiative may be unnecessary and insensitive to what students are going through.
“I laugh at the concept of students falling behind. Falling behind what? We’re in the middle of a pandemic and to act like our normal standards should apply to this year and to what we’ve been through [is] just really laughable to me,” Braun said.
Students have been struggling more than ever this year. One of Braun’s students has lost a close family member.
“I’m supposed to compare what she learned this year to what she’s learned in other years of her life? There’s no way to compare the learning that was happening last year or years before.”
Society made up these standards that students are supposed to meet and we can just as easily make exceptions Braun explained.
While the return to campus has been widely politicized and debated, the issue is often over simplified especially when it comes to the experiences of teachers.
“The rhetoric around the teaching profession — even the rhetoric suggesting that we need to open schools — somehow suggest that teachers haven’t been teaching or working. Every teacher that I know is working more than ever because we were never trained on how to teach online,” Braun reflected.
“I think we’ll see lots of teachers leave [teaching] after this year because of the rhetoric around the profession that has made it seem as though we don’t want to work, or we don’t want to go back to school, or we’re not working as hard when in reality I think teachers are working harder than ever. School is open. The campus is just closed.”
With so much to consider, Newsom and the California Legislature are still in the midst of the debate.