And now the latest Twitter uproar comes from the announcement by the Education minister which says he expects that teachers will participate in synchronous video meetings. And for the first time in a while, I actually don’t know how I feel about that edict. I realize it shouldn’t matter since I’m retired but I’m still wrapping my head around that fact and still thinking like a practicing teacher. Here’s why I’m having trouble sorting out my thoughts.
On one hand, I’m hearing concerns for privacy of both the student and the teacher... someone could walk by or say something inappropriate... parents could be listening in on the lesson and misinterpret something... you could get recorded and then have your words transformed...some students and teachers don’t have a private viewing space... On the other hand, I do feel that all of this is part of being a responsible digital citizen... and that learning how to set up a secure space where you can take part in a Google meet or a Teams meeting IS something that middle school students and their teachers should be able to do. I’m not saying they should HAVE to do it. I’m saying they should have the skills to do it.
I’ve also heard concerns about such a practice being inequitable because of the student who can’t get to that meeting (for whatever reason... 3 kids in a house but 1 computer, too busy babysitting siblings, not sure how to connect and no one to provide technical help etc.). While I acknowledge that not everyone can attend a synchronous meeting, I question the wisdom of saying I’m therefore not going to run one, ever. When I think of my teaching days, it was a rare day that I had ALL my students in the room; they were often absent for illness, appointments, in school duties like being a school ambassador to visiting classes, school visits to next year’s school, music trips for some band members, athletic outings etc. It would never have occurred to me to not run a lesson because someone couldn’t be there. And I can’t help but feel that lessons can still go on even if everyone can’t get there.
I’ve also read concerns from teachers who have little ones at home and can’t leave them unattended for even half an hour in order to teach their class. I don’t have an answer to this but I do understand the frustration from the public who question why those teachers are still collecting full time pay. Maybe there should be a voluntary go on EI option for teachers who just can not make it work.
On the other hand, I also think about what I valued about my diverse colleagues and top of that list was the individuality they brought to the art of teaching. I know only too well that there are multiple ways to deliver a lesson and what works for one teacher magnificently can be a disaster for another. Does a pandemic justify taking away individual choice and dictating precisely what tools a teacher must use? The cynical part of my brain wonders whether the insistence on synchronous meetings are part of an accountability need; someone wants to be able to say, “Mr X was instructing his whole class for 20 minutes and two smaller groups for 15 minutes each on Monday. I admit it’s much harder to account for the time someone has spent teaching when they post a Google slide that says, Here is the class work for Monday...and then they spend the rest of the day responding to emails and giving feedback. To a parent, it might look like their child has been abandoned to learn on their own. So I understand why it might seem like synchronous meetings would seem an easy way to provide visible accountability. But this directive makes me angry because I think it suggests a lack of trust. Telling teachers you must have synchronous meetings says we don’t trust your professional judgement for lesson delivery, we don’t trust you to actually work at home and we don’t trust you to figure out the best ways to connect with your students.
It might sound petulant but no one likes being told “You have to do this”. If left to their own devices I believe many if not all teachers would start to explore video conferencing and synchronous meetings with their classes anyway, but now they’ve been told to do it and as you can tell from this post, I’m still sorting out how I feel about that.
What are your thoughts?