The distance learning dilemma

“While Supplies Last” | Headline poetry by Marilyn Yung

What are your thoughts?

I made this headline poem a few days ago after reading some teacher comments in a private Facebook group I follow. The discussion centered on whether or not to return to school next month.

Many teachers don’t want to return to school. It’s a personal and public health issue for them. And they’re right.

However, the return to school is not a “one size fits all” decision.

Each district must assess its situation, taking into account its own students, parents and family members, and teachers and staff.

As for me, I would like to return to school next month with a routine that observes social distancing and uses face masks. If that means I go to school daily to see half of my students, so be it. If it means covering less material, so be it. But return to school… yes, let’s do it.

But my situation is unique.

So far, our rural school district has been relatively untouched by the pandemic. After all, our county was the LAST out of 114 in my state to see its first COVID-19 case. That’s right: the LAST county. And, according to my CDC app, that first case was seen only yesterday, July 9.

While distance learning seems like an adequate alternative for many school districts, it is fraught with impossibilities for mine due to the lack of reliable, affordable internet in our region. Administrators at my school conducted a survey that found 47.8 percent of our students did not have Internet access at home through a computer, laptop or Chromebook.

So, obviously, distance learning is a problem for us.

For us, distance learning means taking home a textbook, picking up handouts, and students dropping off homework in bins labelled with teachers’ names and arranged on tables in the parking lot. It also means using Remind, which is helpful in places without reliable internet access.

Without that access, distance learning means no group discussion. No in-person conferencing. No funny banter. No tic-tac-toe at the end of class with that one student who’s behind in all his classes.

That level of positive contact with students is a major reason I would like to see my district return to school… assuming social distancing (combined with masks) can be practiced effectively.

At least that’s how I see it. Today. Right now. With the U.S. case count now more than 3,000,000, and with no slow down in sight, I may feel differently in a few days.

This was not my usual post, but I thought I’d publish it anyway. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas in a comment below. Also, sign up for my mailing list for ELA teaching ideas, lesson plans (including what I come up with regarding remote learning ideas), PLUS news about writing contests. I’ll only send an email about once a month and I’ll make sure to include a free resource. Sign up below and… THANK YOU!

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Published by Marilyn Yung

Writes | Teaches | Not sure where one ends and the other begins.

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