A wise man once said nothing because the cancel culture would insure his non-existence! When I began teaching in 1971, diverse opinions formulated good teaching practices. Now diverse opinions only garner an eyeful of disrespectful, pointless banter on social media. Just. Stop. We might come up with viable solutions if ALL opinions are valued.
For weeks I’ve tried to put my 46 years of teaching experience to work and present a viable solution for opening schools back up to in person learning. What does a retired teacher know about today’s online education? Plenty. When I went into the mid-March lock down, I switched my entire voice teaching studio to Skype, then FaceTime and finally opted for Zoom. I am happy to report success!
May 1, I moved most of my students back into the studio. For the past two and a half months we practiced social distancing, hand washing/sanitizing and plenty of ventilation. Not once have I felt ill and not once did any of my students get ill. However here is the interesting fact: about one third of my studio decided to stay online and have done so since March. One of my online students prepared for a international vocal competition entirely at home, including the video entry to the competition. She placed second and will perform at Carnegie Hall March of 2021.
What can be learned from this? In person and online learning can be equally successful but virtual instruction requires two important components: the teacher must be willing to research and produce measurable, creative learning techniques and the students (with their parents) must approach learning with dedication and a positive mind set. There are variables of online instruction which I did not encounter: a classroom teacher has at least 90-100 students; many students do not have parents who are willing or able to support the independent learning process; students who cannot afford computers or parents who cannot provide WiFi will NOT be successful with online learning; special education students have lost and will continue to lose growth in both intellectual, emotional and social capacity; parents who are teachers cannot wear both hats without complete mental duress.
So what is the answer? THERE IS NOT ONE SOLUTION WHICH FITS ALL SITUATIONS. But here are some ideas I would contemplate if I were a parent-teacher (which I was for over four decades):
1. If I were to chose online education, I would only use the school district’s online school IF it demonstrated success for at least 10 years. In my studio I often encountered home schooled children. They loved it! But many used professional home school platforms which are tuition free instead of make-shift school district platforms which were implemented during the March shut down.
2. If in person classes were offered and I investigated to see if CDC protocols were practiced, I would commit to it until the first breakout. At that point, I would finish the remainder of the school year with online instruction using a viable home school platform.
3. A hybrid approach could be the answer for this fall since Covid has not succumbed to the summer temperatures. That way if a breakout incurred at my school, my children already had virtual classroom experience. Schools could see less students during the day where social distancing could actually be practiced. This gradual approach would provide the best of both the real and virtual world of educating our children.
4. I believe, where possible, superintendents and school boards should only make in person/virtual classroom decisions monthly and NOT by the semester. Yes, in the perfect world, knowing where the entire semester is headed is ideal. But this virus has created, to say the least, a very imperfect world. Moving month by month (or perhaps week by week in the early fall) is far better then telling parents and students that a decision has been made for the next 18 weeks with no possibility of review.
5. If I were a teacher with a suppressed immune system, I would opt to tutor a small group of children in my home, practicing CDC guidelines. I would independently contract with 9-10 students with the goal of earning $500 per day (10 students @ $50 PER DAY). I would use the school district’s calendar (plus a home school platform) and teach approximate 180 days for a salary of +/- $90,000. Yes, I would need my own health insurance and I must put aside retirement savings. But the reduction of stress, contradictions of so called experts and the colleague/admin lack of support would make it worth a try.
Two intrinsic human conditions must be guarded for the future of our children: hope and purpose. Whatever you chose as a parent, teacher or administrator, keep your focus on those two required elements of successful human behavior. Our children are the future and losing one semester or one year of hope or purpose could set the course of our country on a downward spiral for years to come.
RESCUE THE TEACHER, SAVE THE CHILD! available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.