Perspective: mixed messages complicate virtual learning for teachers

Updated: Jan 25

by Lizzy Alspach

The pandemic has presented many new challenges for teachers unaccustomed to virtual learning. (Photo: Pixabay.)


With quarantine still in place and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continuing to advocate for wearing a mask in public and social distancing, many workplaces and schools have converted to online learning in order to best assure the health of their constituents. Nevertheless, the federal government has still urged schools to open for full in-person schooling, regardless of the amount of coronavirus cases.


In schools that have opened full time, following the advice of President Trump, photos have leaked of packed hallways with barely any students wearing masks. The leaders of the school boards in these areas have stated that they “cannot force students to wear masks,” yet they continue to enforce their strict dress codes.


During this unprecedented and unpredictable time, the role of teachers in student learning has been expanded to a point that was not previously considered. It has become the teacher’s responsibility to remind students to wear their masks, social distance, and wash their hands, on top of already having to ensure students are learning and completing classwork. Virtual grading systems like Synergy have functioning issues, meaning that grades are hard to put in as well.


In MCPS, March 13, 2020, was our last day of in-school instruction. The following Monday, March 19, 22 cases were confirmed in the state of Maryland. Governor Hogan shut down schools at just 22 confirmed cases, but now wants to open them with hundreds more. With this, students and teachers have become increasingly concerned about their safety if schools really do open.


Lots of schools, such as Northwood High School and Eastern Middle School, have been scheduled for being rebuilt in the next coming years. Christopher Lloyd, president of the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) teachers’ union, stated in a Zoom conference broadcasted to teachers in MCPS that he was ensuring every school had a new HVAC system and proper air conditioning. However, questions have arisen about whether or not those HVAC systems can really be implemented because of the age of certain schools.


Even so, President Lloyd signed off on a 45 days notice for teachers to prepare to enter the school building for instruction. Some teachers have seen this as a mixed message, and this has created much confusion within his union as teachers are uncertain on what they are being asked to do.


Some teachers were shocked by the news, as cases have not declined to the numbers that MCPS health officials have advised. Health officials have said that in order for schools to reopen, the number of new cases per day need to be in the teens. Even so, on October 25, the state of Maryland had 911 more confirmed cases. In Montgomery County, the average amount of new daily cases is 107 as calculated by the New York Times from a 14 day trend.


During distance learning, MCPS has also pushed for mental health check-ins during advisory periods, as well as lessons to encourage thought with the current political climate. Teachers are asked to run advisory and these mental health check-ins, which has raised another question: why aren’t there therapists and other certified officials to perform these check-ins?


Many problems and questions have raised confusion and frustration within the school system. For now, the most we can all do is be empathetic and kind to one another. Zoom and other virtual tools are often new to many students and teachers, so it is important to remember to be kind to those you meet.

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