I have a lot of feelings about this sudden transition to online learning. I am an elementary school teacher, and a parent to two school-aged children, so I’m in the thick of it. If you’re interested in some thoughtful commentary on this topic, I would encourage you to read the following blog posts that explain quite eloquently why we should be lowering our expectations for our students right now.
Sound crazy? Unprofessional? Irresponsible? It’s not. Our students and their families have so many more important things to worry about right now than keeping up with school work. They are worried about whether they, or a loved one, will get sick, or even die. They are concerned about financial security. They are worried about access to necessities, like food and toilet paper. They are grappling with anxiety and depression amid extreme social isolation.
And, of course, there is the equity issue. Some students have access to technology and reliable Internet and plenty of support at home. Some students have none of those things.
This is not a time to hold students to a higher standard. This is a time to offer support. Some students will want and need a focus, a goal to work toward. Academic work will be familiar and comforting. They may enjoy a challenge, an opportunity to push themselves and grow. But, other students will be unfocused, and frazzled, and tired. Assignments, and projects and due dates will leave them feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
So what should teachers do? Contact families. See what they need. Offer support. Provide options. It is OK to call it enrichment. It is OK to make assignments optional. This is what I am doing with my families because I think it is the right thing to do.
Of course, lowering standards, allowing for some slack in the rope, means that some students will take advantage. There will be students who are not feeling worried, who do have access to technology and support and who opt to do nothing because they can get away with it. But, so what? Once this crisis is over there will be plenty of time to get everyone back on track. Will there be great disparities in students’ knowledge and skills when we return in the fall? Of course, there always are, but differentiating instruction, meeting students where they are — this is what teachers do. It will be OK.