The Wall Street Journal recently posted an article covering the parents in New Jersey suing the state to return to in-person classes over concerns that remote learning has sapped their kids’ enthusiasm and interest in school. While I empathize with the position of teachers unions who don’t want to put teachers in physical jeopardy, it would seem that vaccination would alleviate some of these concerns. While it is ridiculous and silly to eliminate social distancing protocols prematurely just because they are tedious and burdensome, returning to school at this point sure seems to make sense, particularly for younger students.
A video chat that I set up between my father and my three kids reminded me of the challenges of online education for elementary aged students. My father, god bless his pure heart, took about 45 minutes to set up his skype, easy to dismiss until I recall he isn’t that he isn’t much older than some teachers. Even then, he couldn’t seem to get his microphone operational, so we used cell phones on speaker. If you had a fraction of a cent for every technical issue that has happened during the pandemic in an educational setting, you’d be the envy of Warren Buffett.
Finally we got the kids on. My youngest son, who is about to turn two, didn’t stop crying for the entire 45 minutes it went on. My two older (4 and 8) shared a swivel chair, and as the conversation seemed somewhat normal, I left the room. And there my troubles began… I had to make them all lunch or behavior would really go down the toilet, so I started making some sandwiches, but then my youngest needed a diaper, and long story short my attention was divided six ways and I didn’t make it back in for about 20 or 30 minutes. By the time I had made it back, they had converted the background to “under the sea” and were taking turns “disappearing” into the sea weed, while my father sat in flabbergasted silence, clearly traumatized by whatever had been going down, which apparently involved some biting and brawl with tears on both sides. I tried to eliminate the fancy background to restore some ‘normalcy’ and realized the computer had froze and needed to be restarted– grant you this is a new Macbook, and that’s pretty hard to do.
I found myself imagining what this would be like for a teacher of 10 or even 15 of these tiny maniacs with an actual goal, like learning basic division. Given that having two just try to talk to their grandfather about their upcoming birthdays was such a nightmare, I have to wonder if that’s even a realistic goal.
The experience was a harsh reminder that younger kids need in person attention, and the more the better. The remote learning, particularly as part of a classroom, is a waste of time better spent doing their own individual learning at home. The sooner that fact is accepted by teachers unions and school boards, the sooner we reach a more reasonable solution.