Do you remember two months ago when we hailed teachers as “heroes?” When there were nonstop memes floating around about how teachers deserve raises? When we gave our educators the benefit of the doubt because they had to transform a quarter of the year’s information into digital learning?
Yeah, I remember too.
Yesterday I read a facebook post that a “friend” shared, written by someone who claims to have, “teacher friends.” In it, she writes how horrible digital learning was. How the teachers did a terrible job meeting her student’s needs. How teachers are out getting their nails done, at parties, and the only reason they don’t want to go back is because they want to continue doing 50% of their job but getting paid fully. It ends with this wonderful, inspiring quote, “So in a nut shell. Report to your job when school opens or get a new job.”
Really? Really. That’s the thanks we get.
Let me share the full story of what happened in Gwinnett County, GA (GCPS). And then you can go on and tell me how awful online learning was.
On March 12th, 2020 we were told we would be off for one week. Several districts in the area cancelled for two weeks, while some even went ahead and cancelled for a month. Gwinnett cancelled for one. That is ONE week (or one LESSON, in my instance) of digital learning that I needed to prepare. I, like every other teacher in my school, had questions: Do the kids have to do their lesson on the day they were supposed to have music? What if they have two music classes that week? What about the classes that are split up and go to different specials on different days? Try planning a lesson that creates a valuable learning experience with all of these questions swirling around in your brain. Emergency distance learning.
On top of that, there is the whole “accessing the online learning platform” debacle. I have shown my kids how to access my music class page from time to time, but I didn’t have any opportunity to remind them.They didn’t have a chance to ask questions. Nothing. They’re just expected to know how to access my lessons. Coordinate with the other specials teachers or the homeroom teachers?! No way! We didn’t have time for that! Emergency distance learning.
On THURSDAY, March 19th, 2020, GCPS announced they would do digital learning for one more week and the “reassess” when we return from spring break. I think to myself, “Great, one more week and then we’ll be back to normal after spring break!” I do ONE more lesson for my kids, thinking we will come back to school in a few weeks and finish out the year strong. Why would I plan an ENTIRE UNIT online when we will be back? Emergency distance learning.
Then, Governor Kemp announces that schools will remain closed through April 24th. Looks like I am not teaching my 4th and 5th graders how to play guitar. It also looks like I need to convert MORE lessons online at the last minute. This statement was made on March 26th, 2020. GCPS didn’t put out an official statement until April. Even my principal was “unsure” if GCPS would abide by the Governor’s orders because they refused to make any sort of statement. Emergency distance learning.
Finally, on April 18th, 2020 Governor Kemp announced schools would stay closed through the end of the year. Of course, GCPS didn’t acknowledge that announcement until several days later. So now it looks like the rest of my lessons will be online. Emergency distance learning.
Now I consider myself to be relatively tech-savvy. My husband has some really good equipment, and I am comfortable editing videos and uploading them, etc. Despite all of these factors working WITH me, I still struggled. Now, imagine being a 24th year teaching and having no idea how to do this. Oh, and you have to do it on the spot. For a class of 25+ kids. With parents upset with you for not meeting their child’s needs. Unsure of how to grade. During a global pandemic. With zero preparation. Emergency distance learning.
So now the time has come to decide whether or not we will reopen schools in the “fall” (which, for many southern states is really early August and late July for teachers)-- which is hardly the fall, and suddenly we are hearing about how TERRIBLE digital learning was and how the teachers were AWFUL at it and how their kids JUST want to learn. Yeah, ok.
Do you know why some teachers may have been “awful” at distance learning? Because IT WASN’T REGULAR DISTANCE LEARNING. It was EMERGENCY distance learning. They had ZERO NOTICE. They had to figure out at a moment’s notice how to transform their curriculum into an entirely online platform.
Now, with about a month until school is starting I ask, What is different from mid-March to now? Not much. Cases are rising. Deaths are rising. The virus is still highly contagious. No vaccine. So why are we not taking this opportunity to let teachers know WAY AHEAD OF TIME that we will be starting the year online and give them this time to prepare!?!
The 2020-2021 version of distance learning will NOT BE THE SAME as the previous school year’s EMERGENCY distance learning, because guess what!?! It’s no longer UNPLANNED.
Maybe, if you give teachers more than a day’s notice they will do something amazing. But who am I to assume?
So yeah, let’s go on debating the start of the school year, while teachers, like me, who want to start planning their lessons are sitting here, unable to do anything because no one is willing to admit that the virus is here to stay and that there is absolutely no difference between this day, July 14th, and when this all started back in March. I'll just sit here and listen to people tell me how I did such a terrible job and how I just want to keep sitting at home and getting paid for it while your child suffers. (Did I mention how I get summers off too!?! I have the easiest job in the world!!!!!)
And, oh yeah, about that raise parents said we should get in April? Well, you’re actually getting a pay-cut this year.
*This article is meant to share the timeline of the pandemic and emergency online learning in conjunction with a teacher’s frustrations. While my experience was from GCPS, other teachers from around the country were in very similar situations in their specific school districts.
Hi! I am Nicole Guimaraes. I'm a K-2 music teacher in Falls Church City, VA. I've got an amazing husband and a fabulous dog who keep me busy. If I'm not teaching or walking my dog, you can probably find me at the gym!