I do not recall which TV commercial refers to the “becoming your parents” stage of life, but I am pretty sure that I am there.
It is not unusual for me to have my daughters doing homework, or even helping them with studying when we visit with each other. But a recent visit has taken the experience with me to a whole new level.
I am aware technology in school has advanced from the chalkboard, to the dry erase board, to the “smart board” (an oversized interactive computer screen mounted on the wall connected to a computer).
But due to Covid19, I now have my experience with “virtual learning.” One of the most frustrating thing about the pandemic, is the impact that it has had on the children. While it is true, the virus, though serious for children, does not have as populous an impact on them. The threat is really about children spreading it to their parents, grandparents, teachers, and others.
And so, with little to nothing known about the virus, most children were sent home for the end of their school year last year. While some schools had some form of virtual plan already, just under normal circumstances, too many were not prepared for what this pandemic would cause.
As politics entered the argument to return children to school, I found myself annoyed, as I did not feel the government had the best interests and safety of the children at heart. Really, it was quite simple. “We just feel there is a need to get our children back to school for their development”, was all that they had to say. But it was adding, “then parents can go back to work and we restore the economy.” I am sorry, but my children are not a tool for any economy.
While I have no doubt of the preparations of my daughters’ school district, others may not feel as safe. Some have no plans, no support, of how to open their schools safely, keep them open, or what to do in the event of an outbreak. Contract testing is not in place for many schools, and many schools do not have the supplies or equipment to deal with cleaning the environment.
So, when the new year rolled around, students were given the opportunity to return to school full time, part time in school and at home, or full at home. My daughters were allowed to make their own decision as to what they would do.
Again, I want to be clear. I do support their return to school. I feel they need to be in school. But it has to be done safely. They cannot bring the virus home with them, or worse contract it themselves.
The situation has been unusual in results. One daughter actually improved with virtual learning, which I did not expect because she is an audial learner (enjoys being taught). My other daughter, has struggled in one or two courses because as a logical thinker, it can be difficult for her to decide between two answers that make perfect sense to her, and not have the classroom structure to seek help in determining the best of the two answers, whether from a fellow student or the teacher.
Socially, this is what hurts them the most. They are lucky at least a little bit, in that they have the technology to at least keep in touch with some of their friends, but clearly, they miss the personal contact. My daughters are social beings, used to physically interacting with their friends. But they get how serious the situation is, and they do their part to make sure they do not get sick, and just as important, not get anyone else sick.
So, with this visit, I have gotten to actually witness their experiences with “virtual learning.” It is fascinating, and for some of us old-timers, a bit intimidating. Many of us have only recently even learned the word Zoom, and the shame we face if we do not learn about the “mute” button. But students and teachers have it down.
My daughters bounce from class to class. Attendance gets taken. They even have to video their exercising for gym class. Emails are sent back and forth to deal with questions and recommendations. Of course, I was scolded for passing in view of a camera (I was not paying attention). On several occasions, I did see some distractions while class was going on and computers were muted and screens not turned on (the equivalent of passing notes from classmate to classmate in the old days).
But they are getting it done. Many schools have been closed their first semester to try and better prepare to be open for the next semester. So schools once again offer options. My daughters are comfortable with the current situation, while still concerned about the increase in cases of Covid19. I do believe schools are likely to be shut down again, because of the rapidly increasing numbers. And besides the safety factor for my daughters, I guess they also feel a certain continuity of remaining static by being virtual.
Like us adults, they are adapting and learning to get along while we try to figure out how to deal with, and hopefully defeat Covid19.
While I may be amazed at the technology, my daughters will never know the fun of being chosen to take the erasers for the chalkboard outside to be clapped, inhaling all that chalk dust.