Commentary: Remote learning expectations rigid, unrealistic

By Emelie Cherrone
Posted at 1:30 PM
I write to you as a teacher with District 186, a family with a student in district, and a concerned citizen. The last semester was stressful and frustrating at times for everyone involved. We were (and still are) learning the ins-and-outs of “Remote Learning” together. Now, as we all prepare for returning to school, I beg of you to encourage the school board to reconsider the district’s plan concerning daily Zoom requirements for its classrooms. This expectation is too rigid and unrealistic for the teachers, students, and families.

Currently, for the first semester everyone will be learning remotely. I was very relieved at this decision, but I had already planned on being remote due to a childcare issue. Many district families are experiencing the same struggle. Affordable childcare was a crisis before COVID, and now it has only increased the issues. On a personal level, I worry about being able to handle constant Zooms, my children, and our household. As an advocate for my students, I am extremely worried that this will unfairly affect a large amount of our students on the lower half of the socioeconomic scale. Young students may find themselves in new, unfamiliar environments to their learning, such as in a daycare, with other family members, or friends. Our older students may find themselves the daily caregivers of younger siblings, having to balance their education with helping their siblings.

I also worry that this rigid schedule will punish our working students. Last year I have students on many occasions tell me that they missed school in order to go to work. Their families counted on their income. The pandemic has brought about some of the largest levels of unemployment our country has ever seen. A more flexible schedule (but still rigorous) would allow these students to keep up with their academics during the time they feel they can focus most.

Before learning of the required Zoom times, I had planned on a large amount of my lessons and discussions to be completed by my students asynchronously, or not at the same time. This would have been achieved mostly with a video message board app. This app gives me the capability to edit the video and film it at a convenient time without my kids interrupting. This also gives my students time to craft/edit their response back to me and each other. The feedback from my students last spring was that they didn’t feel as anxious working this way vs. live video sessions. I did plan on having Zoom office hours where I would be available to help anyone having issues on a more one-to-one basis.

This district has invested quite a sum of money into the professional development opportunities it has offered its teachers. I have been fortunate to attend some great workshops and learned valuable information to implement in my classroom. I implore our community to encourage the Board Members to give those of us teaching the flexibility needed to provide the best class environment for our student to reach their highest potential for the upcoming and unprecedented school year. We aren’t trying to get out of teaching our students, just making it accessible to all.

Emelie Cherrone lives in Springfield and teaches at Springfield High School.Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 7.51.48 PM