My kids are in different school boards, but their experience thus far with “distance learning” has a few similarities. I am not impressed, to be honest. If you want to read a long-ass post, this is it.
TL;DR: Teachers are micromanaged and under-equipped; the Ministry Sucks; they had an opportunity to improve education and failed.
First, why are we calling it “distance learning” instead of homeschool or online learning? I do not see the need for a NEW name for what’s going on.
My grade 11 student (public board) has a teacher who is actively involved with projects (assigned via Google Classroom) and makes herself available for commentary. There is another teacher who had not provided anything for quite a few weeks. No consistency from that school/board in terms of teacher expectations. I mean, how do you have one teacher clearly trying and another who is MIA? Reign that sh*t in!
For this student, I am unable to be the teacher. I do not know the material to teach it, except for Art and some Business. This student is exceptional at keeping a schedule, staying on task, completing work, finding answers, and ensuring the content is learned. I am extremely fortunate here. She is so good that I can even rely on her to be the Art and Music teacher to her little brother – in fact, that’s what she is doing right now, enabling me to type this.
My grade 1 student (catholic board) has a teacher (home-room/primary) who actively uploads files to Google Classroom every Monday morning. There are comments on most of the submitted work as well. Great consistency. Some of the other teachers will on occasion, post something extra basic to the same Google Classroom.
For this student, I am the teacher of all things (except music because I can’t even think about music).
To teach him I have to shut down everything else and focus fully on him. He is 6 and no 6-year-old wants to sit still at a desk and brain for a whole day. His focus is all over the place. He literally climbs the couch, the chairs, the desk, the table, and ME while talking, thinking or working.
I spend Monday morning downloading all the work from Google Classroom (and ranting on Facebook). I sort the downloaded files by class topic, then by week, and then I colour-code them so I know which to hand in and which to just work on. After that, I print all the work pages out and organize them into physical folders so that I can access them throughout the day. The day is structured around the school’s schedule of class and break times, but I am flexible with that by about 30 minutes -/+.
I set up an actual child’s desk in the basement, next to my office desk. In front of his desk is a TV connected to a computer. Sitting together we go through all of the files provided, one a time, throughout the day. Most of what I am telling him is about staying focused on the tasks (no climbing things!), not the actual tasks. He already knows the content of what we’re doing – it’s all practice at this point.
But today some new material came in for him. Last week the teacher uploaded a PowerPoint presentation along with the printouts – an actual lesson! I put it on the TV and went through it with him and he read along. This week there are 2 more PowerPoints!!
BUT! These powerpoints do not have anything telling me (the teacher) how to teach this new material.
How would they teach this?
Would they present the slides of the PPT, allowing them to read along? Or, would they be the only ones to see the slides as they speak?
What key words would they focus on for comprehension?
What core concepts are new to the student at this point?
I am the type of person who will figure it out though. I know this kid and I have gotten a great understanding of his capabilities and limits over the past 10 weeks of homeschooling. I always think about those parents who are working, or struggling with more than 1 kid, or not able to teach/help for whatever reason.
Something that really pisses me off is the type of content that gets uploaded. One teacher has only provided “work” on weeks 2, 5, and 7. They uploaded low-resolution JPG images; things you’d find on a Pinterest board! I am often google’ing around looking for higher resolution versions of what’s been uploaded, or recreating the files from scratch (because I am skilled in that, by trade). Is that really what the Ministry/board has provided to the teachers? I doubt it. I think the board has told teachers all the things they cannot do/say, and then said here are the learning objectives – period. All of the material and resources needed to reach those objectives is a big void that the teacher has to fill with their own Google searches. And that’s how we end up here. It’s a failure when it could so easily be a win.
There is a lot of praise flying around for the school boards and teachers, but I do not see it as fully deserved on my end. When the decision to close schools was being contemplated there should have been a huge push to figure out how online programs like Khan Academy, Udemy, and EdX operate. The work is done – those online schools exist and that’s exactly what we need right now. To not even try to explore that is insanity. No, it is ego. No, it is self-preservation, 100%! If the Ministry/boards went that route, they would put risk putting themselves out of business in many ways, because those platforms are already successful. And why is that? They’re individualized, for one, and traditional schools are factories. They’ve also been online for quite some time, learning and adapting their systems to the feedback and success rates of their students. The wheel has been invented, perfected, and is in use right here, but the Ministry/boards fully ignored it and came up with a goddamned triangle! The ball was dropped so hard here.
I know that I should not be hard on the teachers because many of them actually care and try, but at the same time I am asking myself “why not?” I fully realize that teachers are completely trapped inside the box that the ministry has put them in. They cannot say anything unless they’ve been cleared to say it. They cannot talk to parents about certain things; they cannot return a hug from a student, etc etc etc. So, on one end they’re being micromanaged so hard that they become robots, and on the other end the Ministry does NOT provide them with the resources, time, funds to deliver quality lessons. I have taken the provided lesson material and searched for it on Google Images. You know what I find? The same resource the School Teacher is sending to me is sitting on Pinterest and various other websites where you can freely download homeschooling resources. Some of them come from a site where teachers share/sell resources to one another. Good job, Ministry. Nailed it.
The board micromanages the teachers to avoid lawsuits, not to provide quality education. (IMO, of course, don’t sue me).
Teachers are forced to go outside their box to teach because the Ministry sucks harder than a black hole.
I have no real firm point here. I am just so disappointed with how poorly this has been handled. It was an opportunity to improve the system and it has not happened. So many parents are in situations where they cannot help their kids as I can, and the kids are losing as a result. I am not even that great! My son tells me that his sister is the best teacher EVER, Mom is 2nd, and I am a distant 3rd.