Teaching from home: A traumatic experience with little time to prepare and become similar with new tools 2/3

 

The teaching from home blog series consists of experiences and narratives we have gathered from teachers, parents, and students during calls with more than 2500 schools across LATAM during COVID-19. The series is conceptualized and disseminated by Juan Carlos Soriano, COO of CanopyLAB LATAM.

This is part 2 in the series Teaching from home. Read part 1 and 3.

 


 

When asked to describe her memories of those first two weeks, she describes it as a state of confusion and a false sense of hope that the virus would pass quickly.

 

During the first days of quarantine, Miss Jenny, who is a private school teacher in Lima Peru, was at home with her family. “I remember thinking that the closing of schools and the COVID-19 pandemic would pass and that soon enough I would be back in my classroom” she explains. At that point, parents, teachers, or school directors did not fully grasp the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact on education in the short and long term. When asked to describe her memories of those first two weeks, she describes it as a state of confusion and a false sense of hope that the virus would pass quickly.

 

Miss Jenny was directed by her school administration to resume her classes online. The school had set up a Zoom account and sent invitations to the parent’s email accounts along with supporting class instructions.

 

Fear of technology and making mistakes
When asked about her interactions with parents, Miss Jenny describes that as parents started to face the reality of having their children at home full time, they turned to the school for solutions. Miss Jenny was directed by her school administration to resume her classes online. The school had set up a Zoom account and sent invitations to the parent’s email accounts along with supporting class instructions. Miss Jenny’s first class was a complete disaster. Just imagine thirty 6-year olds and their parents trying to interact via Zoom. Despite having a high level of digital competency, Miss Jenny emphasizes that delivering a class online requires a whole different skill set than the one she normally leverages in class: “When I taught the first times remotely, I felt terrified. Before class I was trying to learn about all these digital tools and I made mistakes in front of my students and their parents”.

 

Despite having a high level of digital competency, Miss Jenny emphasizes that delivering a class online requires a whole different skill set than the one she normally leverages in class: “When I taught the first times remotely, I felt terrified. Before class I was trying to learn about all these digital tools and I made mistakes in front of my students and their parents”.

 

After having launched her remote classes, she recalls starting to receive messages from frustrated parents, some complained that there was too much homework, others that there weren’t enough activities. Some parents were apologetic because they were only able to join classes via cellphone, they didn’t have enough computers for everyone in the household. Parents with a full-time job had started teleworking, and older siblings were also attending online classes, which demanded a lot of digital resources that the household didn’t have.

 

Miss Jenny describes the COVID-19 period as “driving full speed on a highway, with no headlights during a pitch dark night without a driver’s license”.

 

I was grappling with how to transform my in-classroom teacher training and apply it to online teaching. How do you replace the pedagogical tools used in the classroom, the transitions, the freedom you can give students to move around? How to apply all the traditional classroom methodologies and strategies on inclusive education that I have perfected over many years?

 

“I was grappling with how to transform my in-classroom teacher training and apply it to online teaching. How do you replace the pedagogical tools used in the classroom, the transitions, the freedom you can give students to move around? How to apply all the traditional classroom methodologies and strategies on inclusive education that I have perfected over many years? How do you do that with 30 kids over zoom? How do you deal with parents texting during class and at all hours of the day”?

 

We’ve always been passionate about equal access to education.

 

Not enough hours in the day to help students and parents
One of Miss Jenny’s big concerns is that she receives many questions and that she does not have enough time to answer all of them. In addition, parents are angry and anxious and she feels that they are “turning against her and the school”. As a response to the parents complaints about the remote classes via zoom, the school backtracked and started limiting zoom classes to ten student participants at a time. But this has real consequences, “now I have to deliver the same class three times instead of one and there just aren’t enough hours in the day” Miss Jenny explains. Finally the school has canceled zoom classes altogether. The school believes that the new solution is to develop presentations in PowerPoint using screencast software to incorporate videos that Miss Jenny records in advance.

 

As a response to the parents complaints about the remote classes via zoom, the school backtracked and started limiting zoom classes to ten student participants at a time.

 

While the school is now testing the 3rd approach to teaching in two months, it is Miss Jenny on the front line interacting with the parents and teachers: “At this point most parents are revolting, holding me personally responsible for the school missteps, criticizing me for delivering poor quality education to their children” she explains and continues “this is by far the lowest point in my professional teaching career.” She recalls her state of mind a few nights ago: “I was near my breaking point, crying at night, thinking about quitting. Had I quit, I’m certain that no other teacher would have accepted to replace me and go through what I went through”, she shared.

 

The financial implications of COVID-19
Another real concern is financial. Parents and school administrators are increasingly clashing over school fees. Should the schools charge the same for a physical or on site degree as a virtual one? At Miss Jenny’s school, parents have pressured the administration to lower the monthly school fees by 50%. Some families have pulled their children out of the school, transferring them to public schools. Rumors of the school’s financial instability have started spreading along with the possibility of teachers being placed on unpaid leave. “In order to keep my job, I have accepted a reduction of my salary, despite working more hours than ever before” she reveals.

 

Parents and school administrators are increasingly clashing over school fees. Should the schools charge the same for a physical or on site degree as a virtual one? At Miss Jenny’s school, parents have pressured the administration to lower the monthly school fees by 50%

 

Key Takeaways

  • It takes time to get to know new tools and as a result of COVID-19 teachers are still scrambling to assemble and get to know the tools they will use for remote teachers.
  • Just like the rest of us, teachers are afraid of making mistakes and currently face a lot of criticism for decisions made by principals and academic coordinators.
  • In many ways teachers often face a Catch-22; some parents and institutions expect them to assign a lot of work, while others advocate that they are overwhelming their kids.
  • Time needs to be allocated to not just teach, but also for the mastering of new tools, building and adjusting the curriculum and answering questions from teachers and parents.
  • Many teachers are taking pay cuts or are experiencing layoffs as parents transfer their children out of public schools and into the private system during COVID-19.
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