I pride myself in being a musician and songwriter for a Miami band, Xotic Yeyo. In the day my audience stretches from the concert venue into the classroom. Paying my bills on time means teaching from 7 am to 3 pm. I may not be the cool teacher of music, but I am “Lit-Teacher” of English. Conveniently, at the turn of Spring Break, the Covid-19 pandemic hit, meaning socially distant learning.
Before COVID, young learners were struggling with tasks such as submitting assignments, and getting to classes on time, if at all. I’ve observed that students require facilitation and accommodations to guide them through task-completion. In the words of my 10th grade English teacher, Joel Lazarus, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Some of our students have not showed up to one online class. “Quarantine” has meant the closing of the physical schools, and requires students to take eight online classes. This is two or three times the number of web-based curriculum any student would take in one college-semester. Students have no choice but to independently read assignments without real-time guidance. Parents are observing their children struggle with reading, and our students are finding out the same thing about their parents.
A lot of guardians are unable to assist their kids scholastically.
But they are the only models these young people have available. Some of our students’ families emigrated to this country recently and are unable to speak the language the work is in. Others are remote worker bees who are succumbing to keep the roof overhead during the day. Families with parents employed as first responders and USPS employees may be leaving their child latch-key, limiting them to any engagement at all during the day. Students, parents, and teachers are all being disadvantaged by this experience.
These times are unparalleled to anything today’s teachers have experienced beyond the pages of Kurt Vonnegut and Orwellian literature. Administration says, “Unprecedented times…” require unprecedented measures from teachers. Some of these include insurmountable flexibility with accepting late work. Though students are assigned one or two tasks per teacher, weekly, there are no repercussions for students’ late assignment-submissions or resubmissions. This leaves the instructors swamped with a regular influx of grades to get in. These stresses have made a professional martyrdom out of teaching. It is not in a teacher’s nature to want to turn a blind eye on accountability, but this is the new norm. Humanity willing, the virtual landlords and bill collectors of 2040 will be just as lenient and lax as our alums’ teachers.
Students are being subjected to very stressful measures leading them to drop out like a miscarriage. Teachers’ altruistic tendencies are being taken advantage of by sensationalized times. Though we can only hope this distant learning experience is short lived, we need to get back to model learning for students. If socially distant education is the future for learning, Mike Judge will be our twenty-first century prophet. Like Nostradamus predicted the death of King Henry II. Mike Judges’ predicted the age of Idiocracy.