Distance Learning: We’ll Get Through This Together!

student working at computer. distance learning concept

Are children falling behind academically in the midst of COVID-19? Many parents are concerned that their children may be falling behind due to distance learning. As a third-grade teacher, I can confirm that virtual learning is not the same as learning in the traditional classroom. However, it may not be as dire as you fear.

The first thing to remember is that many students across the country, and even around the world, are participating in some form of distance learning during this pandemic. Enormous numbers of children are in this same predicament. The question becomes, just whom are our students actually falling behind? “Behind” is a relative term and is often based on arbitrary benchmarks or definitions of “success.”

Another factor to consider is how things have changed over the last several months. Virtual learning is much different this fall than it was in the spring. When I left my classroom for Spring Break, I believed we would be returning to school as usual following the break. We didn’t return at all. This caught school districts, families and teachers unprepared. Teachers had to learn how to do their jobs virtually, and practically overnight. Families had to figure out how to accomplish student learning from home. Many parents had to manage childcare situations without any warning. Schools struggled to provide materials and internet services for all students. We continued to try to keep students engaged in learning, but there were many limitations to what could be done with no time to prepare. The process of grading was modified, allowing for more leniency.

I believe everyone did their best in these extreme circumstances. As it became apparent that this pandemic might continue to affect us in the fall, school districts and teachers prepared. Summer was spent getting ready for the possibility that distance learning would continue. Teachers learned how to teach in different ways. We learned to manage classrooms through new platforms. Districts explored how to reach all students. Through this planning, fall looks remarkably different than spring.

In my district, a typical virtual school day looks very similar to how it would look in person. At my school, all subjects, even Physical Education and Music, are being taught at the same times they would be if students were in the building. Students even have time to learn in the library and visit with the school counselor. Our Gifted and Talented students are meeting virtually with their teacher. All of this is being done through Zoom classrooms. A student’s day looks very similar to how it would look in person. Grades are given in the same manner they would be with in-person instruction. Every effort is being made to continue the educational process with our students.

Teachers do understand that virtual learning differs from in-person instruction. It is not realistic to believe that everything can be done exactly the same through distance learning as it would be in the actual classrooms. Teachers are prioritizing. We do know which things are most important for students to master each year. We are focusing most of our attention in these areas.

Another important thing to remember is that teachers are accustomed to receiving students at a variety of levels. Most of us use small instructional groups in order to help students catch up to grade level. When we do return to brick and mortar classrooms, teachers will be ready to address the needs of each child. This isn’t new to us.

I do see one advantage to distance learning. Parents are becoming more involved in the education of their children. Busy parents often struggle with being as involved as they truly need to be. The teacher, parents and students need to work together as a team in order to successfully educate children. I usually assign nightly homework, mostly because it gives the parents an opportunity to be involved in their child’s education. Sadly, some children don’t return homework, and it’s obvious that some parents don’t review homework assignments with their children. In the midst of distance learning, I see no purpose for an additional “homework” assignment. Parents are necessarily becoming more involved, and they are able to see exactly what we are doing in class and participate in the education of their children.

I understand the worries of parents who fear that their children aren’t getting the same education through distance learning as they would be in a regular classroom. It’s true that things are not the same. However, every effort is now being made to simulate a regular school day experience for our students. Teachers have learned how to modify lessons for distance learning, and we will know exactly what to do in order to help our students catch back up when they do return to our classrooms. Parents needn’t worry. We will all get through this together!

Nov 2020 School Age Pin

Categories: Education