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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and author of Meditation in the College Classroom: A Pedagogical Tool to Help Students De-Stress, Focus,...
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Remote Teaching in K-12 Schools: A Learning Experience Rather than a “Failure”

To say that schools forced to operate online during the pandemic were a complete “failure” as the Wall Street Journal reported in a June 5 article is not fair to educators.

While the article acknowledges that teachers did not have adequate time to plan for the initiative or training in how to teach remotely, it focuses on the major loss in learning that occurred. Of course, we cannot ignore that much work needs to be to regain learning gains and what was being accomplished in schools, we must also remember that all learning and new efforts involve some trial and error.

This was an unprecedented demand placed on school administrators and teachers. It was a massive, challenging undertaking to suddenly shift all teaching and resources to a virtual learning environment. For colleges and universities, they were in a slightly better position. Some courses were already taking place online or being delivered as hybrids (a combination of in-person learning and online learning). They had platforms like Canvas, which enabled them to transition to a virtual learning space more easily. Professors also have more experience using online teaching tools.

What about a primary teacher, who spent her whole career teaching face-to-face with the students being suddenly asked to teach children completely online? This is a massive expectation and one that could require years (not months or days) to figure out. And of course, as teachers do, they used Zoom and other platforms and used all the creativity they could muster to continue teaching. 

Rather than seeing this as a failure, how about we frame this as one big learning experience? Educators now know what doesn’t work. While hopefully we don’t have to shift entirely online again, I believe schools will be better prepared for a second go-around. They will be better at using digital platforms, at communicating expectations and assignments, at grading, and at making sure all students have accessibility to technology.

Students, I believe, will also be more accustomed to the online learning environment, as well as parents.

Over the years, educators have had to continually adjust to new demands. No Child Left Behind, Common Core…and teachers and students learned how to respond. Yes, there’s a lag time. Things don’t work out right away. For example, teachers had to train in how to deliver Common Core lessons, test scores took a dip, but they figured it out. And they will figure out how to teach within this “new normal,” whatever they might look like.  This I believe.