As the COVID-19 pandemic presses on, millions of teachers and students across the U.S. are starting the school year not in the classroom but online.
In fact, nearly three-fourths of the country’s largest school districts have chosen remote learning as their only instructional model for the beginning of the academic year, according to a Sept. 2 update from Education Week magazine. (Some districts are adopting a hybrid model and others are offering on-campus instruction for all students with an option to do remote learning if desired).
Virtual instruction helps protect the health and safety of educators, kids and their families. But it also raises concerns about students falling behind academically, lack of socialization with peers, lack of support for students with disabilities, child care arrangements when parents can’t work from home, and computer and internet access for low-income families, just to name a few.
As we head into distance learning, we asked teachers to share what they wish more parents and caregivers knew or understood. Here’s what they told us.
Responses have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity and length.
1. Many of us were thrown into virtual teaching with little to no training.
“I had never seen Google Classroom before, nor had I even heard of apps like Loom or Pear Deck. But in record time, we learned. We figured it out and we tried to provide the best learning experience we could for your student.” — Vera Ahiyya of @thetututeacher, who teaches kindergarten in New York
2. It hurts when you say that teachers don’t want to work. That’s just not true.
“There is no place I’d rather be than in a classroom with my students. Connecting with these young humans is the best part of my day. Schools never closed — we shifted our classrooms to online without skipping a beat. Distance learning is not our preferred method of teaching. Every teacher I know wants to be with their kids. We spend a lot of time with these students. And every year, without fail, they become our kids. We become a little family.” — Darin Nakakihara, who teaches middle school in California
3. We agree that remote learning is not ideal. But it’s the best option we have at the moment.
“We also have to remember that different children respond better to different learning styles. While some students may excel at distance learning, for others it’s critical that they be in a classroom in order to retain what they learn. We all have to do the best we can to work together during this time — open communication between students, teachers, parents and faculty is key.
While we all know that distance learning is not ideal, for now I believe this is best for everyone when it comes to the health and safety of the kids. We must all be on board and support one another during these trying times.” ― Tyrelle Lee, who teaches eighth grade in North Carolina
4. This is hard on all of us. Let’s be patient with each other.
“The most important thing we all need to keep in mind during distance learning is to have patience. This is new for all of us — the students, parents, teachers and administrators. We need to understand that we will all face challenges and frustrations (most days) but need patience to work together through any issues that arise, as we are all learning how to get better.” ― Lee
5. Remember that we’re on the same team here.
“I’d like parents to know that our world has turned upside down as well. This situation isn’t us vs. them. It’s us trying our best to make learning happen in what feels like an impossible situation. We need parents’ support just like they need ours.
We have to be on the same team to find joy and encourage progress for our learners this year. It’s OK for us to grieve this change in school setting differently, but it’s not OK for us to not work together. We’re in this together and have the same goal of supporting, loving and teaching our students during this time.” ― Tamara of @ifpencilscouldtalk, who teaches third grade in Colorado
6. We really miss our students.
“We miss seeing their faces every day. We know that some have circumstances where they cannot chance coming to school and bringing something home to a family member, and we understand completely. But we miss them!” ― Kelsey Moeller, who teaches kindergarten (in-person and online) in Arkansas
7. We’re just as confused and overwhelmed by all of the changes as you are.
“Every day, we seem to get new information and directives. We are continuously making adjustments to our classrooms, our lesson plans, our policies and procedures, and more. We know that you are doing just the same with your own jobs, responsibilities and with your children and their needs. The students have been exceptional at being flexible and maintaining a positive attitude, including my freshmen who are starting their first year in high school. Though we are confused and frustrated at times, together, we can do this!” ― Staci Lamb, who teaches ninth grade in Maryland
8. If we all take the time to learn the new distance learning tools and resources, things will go much more smoothly.
“It’s also important that everyone — parents included — takes the time to learn how to use the resources available to us with this type of learning. For example, our district uses programs such as Canvas, Nearpod, Microsoft Teams, Discovery Education Tech Books and ClassDojo, to name a few. Parents who are able to learn these programs will undoubtedly be able to assist their children better when distance learning.” ― Lee
9. Some of us don’t have access to the technology we need to properly carry out our jobs.
“We don’t all have the technology or the bandwidth to help ensure equitable and accurate teaching. Many of us teach lessons on old, outdated laptops with very little memory or battery life. Some of us check work using our laundromat’s Wi-Fi, just to be sure a student got feedback on their work.” ― Ahiyya
10. We’re juggling a lot at once and working long hours.
“Some of us have a class full of students, as well as online students. So during the day, we are teaching 10 to 18 kids in our rooms and then having to find a time to get online and check the online students’ work, answer questions and meet with them via Zoom or Google Meet. We are having to record lessons during our conference time, after school or even at home to post for them to have online.” ― Moeller
“When the day comes that I am actually able to welcome my students into my classroom, it will be the best teaching day of my life.”
11. Please come to us before you take your complaints or frustrations to Facebook.
“If something isn’t clear or you don’t understand, please come to me first instead of social media. I can’t fix a problem I don’t know about.” ― Moeller
12. We’re worried about the students who may be falling behind and need your support to help them succeed.
“For students who are struggling, I can’t just walk over to them and quietly assist them or partner them up with a classmate to work with. Since school is now at home — a place where parents take the lead — I need to partner with them to make sure that their child has a space to work in successfully, knows how to access and has all of their materials, and is encouraged to advocate for themselves when they need the help.
I know this learning environment is very frustrating and stressful for some parents. But in the midst of that, I need them to communicate and reinforce the idea that virtual school is real school and that attendance, preparation and engagement still matters. Basically, in this environment, teaching and all that is involved in providing a successful lesson is no longer just the teacher’s job.” ― La Tawnya Robinson of @smartiestyle, who teaches middle school in California
13. We notice and appreciate all the extra time and effort you’re putting in at home, too.
“On the first day of school, I saw and heard parents sitting next to their children trying to help them navigate the new online learning platform. We know how much of a strain this is causing, and we appreciate all that you are doing to make conducive learning spaces at home.” ― Lamb
14. We’re just as eager to return to the classroom as you and your kids are.
“I miss every single aspect of in-person instruction. Nothing compares to sharing space with your students, watching them interact in small groups, laughing with them, and just handing them a worksheet to work on instead of spending hours and $100 trying to figure out how to do the same thing digitally. None of the teachers that I know think virtual learning is the best situation for students, but we accept that this is what we have to do right now. I will tell you this: When the day comes that I am actually able to welcome my students into my classroom, it will be the best teaching day of my life.” ― Robinson