As the school year comes to an end, parents, students, and teachers reflect on the remote learning experience. For middle school and high school students, the online switch was fairly simple due to the routine use of sites such as Google classroom and other forms of online platforms. As anyone could imagine, the change has been the most difficult in elementary schools.
Elementary school students are 5-10 years in age. Prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic, most, if not all, of their academics were taught by a teacher in person, which meant the students were under constant supervision. With children now at home 24/7, millions of guardians around the world have found themselves being both the parent, and the teacher to their child.
Brittney Dube and Victoria Mellen have third graders that attend Grinnell Elementary School and are experiencing remote learning for themselves. Both mothers have found that the transition to remote learning has increased their direct involvement in their child’s assignments. Due to all the work being assigned online, Dube said that she has been helping her children with navigation through the online sites, finding the right assignments, and staying on a schedule. She also notes that math in particular has been difficult to learn remotely, but she likes being able to see all the work her child is doing and help with the progress.
However, not all parents are as involved as this. Sadly, there are many parents who offer little to no support in their young child’s education. Due to the ages of elementary students, they cannot be held accountable for not being able to get their work in online on their own. To stay on task and be able to complete their work, many need frequent guidance, which would normally be provided by their teacher.
Third-grade teacher Aron Racca, who teaches at Barka Elementary School, said that on average she is missing generally half of her class for remote learning. She has 23 students total in her third-grade class, which means only about 13-16 kids regularly participate each day. She also remarks that many students go on just to check themselves present for attendance, but never actually submit any work. Racca puts parents’ involvement at 70% for her class, and she also offers family zoom sessions for extra help.
When asked if they enjoyed remote learning or not, the third-grade daughters of Dube and Mellen, Jaylin Poole, and Izzabella Mellen stated clearly their feelings about having school from home. Izzabella explains that she finds remote learning harder because if she needs help she can’t just raise her hand to ask the teacher. Jaylin said that she misses seeing and playing with her friends at school.
The opinions are similar with teachers. Racca said what she misses most about teaching is, “The ability to float between kids and really help them personally 1 on 1.” For many teachers, it is all about forming that relationship with their students. Through remote learning, it is difficult to get that link.
Another concern is how long students are spending on assignments and the difficulty of the work. Parents, Dube and Mellen, agreed that altogether each day their children spend around 3 hours completing the assignments. Mellen said the process was overwhelming at first, but got easier once they got into a routine. Dube added that there is time for breaks when needed.
Teachers especially are spending a huge chunk of their time each day creating lessons. Elementary teachers had just a few days to transfer their entire classroom online as well as their lesson plans. Racca said she feels like she is doing double what she normally does. It has also been frustrating dealing with the students who submit no work and trying to contact and help them.
With the school year coming to a rapid close, parents, students, and teachers are all wondering what will happen in the fall for the new school year. Racca said she was not against continuing remote learning in the fall if it is in the best interest of health and safety. She also advises everyone to keep an open mindset and flexibility for returning to the classroom.