I have been reading a lot of comments lately regarding sending the children to school, live-remote teachers, or zoom classrooms. From what I have seen, quite a few people see this as a battle between teachers, school administrators, and parents. This is not a complete picture of what is needed to send students back to school. The first concern is of course safety for students, teachers, and staff members. Second is the emotional health and well-being of the students while providing a productive learning environment.
The health risks we face as a result of Covid-19 are far-reaching, including stress, anxiety, and depression. As a result, we can see how important the benefits and value of live interaction between children. In addition to the academic benefits of a classroom environment, students develop traits of empathy for others, sharing, and problem-solving skills through social-emotional learning with peer and teacher interaction. As other schools around the country start to re-open, we can see in-person learning might not be sustainable.
I have been teaching online for four years. To teach in this format, I spent 40 hours (in courses) to specifically prepare me for remote instruction. In addition to that, I took an entire year program to become certified with the American College of University Educators, the highest standard for teaching. This, in addition to my teaching schedule.
The pandemic has created a new environment and whether teachers were given six days or six months to prepare, this is a new skillset and does not happen overnight. How many of us have been through corporate training programs to prepare for a job? These programs are often many months in length and require tremendous effort and support. Just a year ago, no-one would say our schools were ill-prepared in case a pandemic arrived. Our schools had provided programs covering important topics, such as bullying and social-emotional development. These were relevant, and still are, however they now seem far removed to the reality of complete school closure and full-time remote instruction.
This is a learning curve and everyone is adjusting. I know teachers would much rather be in the classroom than a remote setting. It is a lot easier for them as far as preparation and student engagement. Along with that, many teachers, miss and truly enjoy seeing their students.
Lisa Smith, M.A. DEVM, Teacher’s College Columbia University, is an Educational Consultant and an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Union County College. She can be reached at Ljs2198@TC.Columbia.edu