In a normal world, distance learning is an instruction that is provided in a virtual setting. Florida Virtual School is a prime example. It is an online school dedicated to personalized learning. The teachers who provide this type of instruction are trained for this type of learning environment, and the students who attend, do so by a conscious decision made by their parent and/or guardian. It’s an environment where students learn at their own pace.
Then we have distance learning during the world pandemic brought by the Coronavirus (COVID-19). A deadly virus that began in China and spread like wildfire to other parts of the world, including our resilient nation, the USA.
On March 11th in the year of 2020, our president addressed our glorious nation and declared a travel ban from 26 European countries to the U.S. for 30 days. Thereafter, as cases started to rise rapidly in our country, one by one, school superintendents made the tough decision to close schools to prevent any further spread of the virus. Originally, school closures were to take place for a two week period, the time it takes for the first symptoms of the Coronavirus to be seen. As cases steadily rose city by city, county by county, so did the extended time that schools would be closed. The most up to date, the estimated return date to school is now May 1st, 2020.
In Miami Dade County, like other parts of the country and world, teachers and their students were thrown into an abyss. This abyss is an unknown world of new technology, an expectation to teach students as if they are in a normal class environment, continue to provide accommodations to English Language Learners and the special needs population, online meetings with administrators who are scrambling to provide an all-new continuity plan for teachers to abide by. So as teachers were trained on ZOOM in a week’s time and new online platforms were researched to provide the best instruction possible, teachers were soon “back in the classroom” if you will.
I can tell you first hand what that “classroom” looks like for me. It looks like my dining room in a two-bedroom townhouse. Around that dining room table sit three middle schoolers and me with my school-administered MacBook laptop. It includes arguments over who will use the 1 of 2 iPads we have, as opposed to mom’s outdated HP laptop. It includes 20-25 students in my dining room with me daily on Zoom with me trying to instruct them and engage them the best way I know-how, however, it also includes me having to step away from my students at times because my middle schoolers need assistance with signing in to their new online platform of schooling as well. Some days we run like a well-oiled machine, other days it looks like a circus juggling act. In my home, I’ve always been mom first, and in my classroom, I’m Ms. Martin, however now I’m both. As a teacher, this world pandemic has left me thinking…
A bigger picture is missing; we are in a world crisis. We are in quarantine. We are social distancing from grandparents because we don’t want to put them at risk for the virus that kills our elderly population. When we leave our homes for essential goods and services, we see empty streets, blue tape in grocery stores that warn us to keep 6 feet of distance. Yet, when I sit down at my dining room table and log on with my students, I’m expected to teach them a flawless reading and writing lesson and continue on as if none of this exists.
So in a world where we are discovering that kindness and compassion take precedence, I leave my students with this during our Coronavirus (COVID-19) distance learning time… I know you did not choose this way of learning, therefore I will assure you that even though the world is shutting down around us, I will still be here to “teach” you. I see you. l hear you. I will communicate with you. And most importantly, I will connect with you daily because, in this uncertain time, we all need a spark of hope. And you are that spark of hope for me, as well as I for you.