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Inequities of Remote Learning

I am one of four people in my household. My two boys are in elementary and middle school, and my husband and I are both teachers. For the past 3 or 4 years, I have begun to realize how privileged we are to be a middle class, white family, with a home that we own (well, technically, the bank owns it). As all four of us transition to a fully remote, synchronous (follow the class schedule with zoom meetings) system, it has come very clear to me how extraordinarily privileged we are.

Maybe you are wondering how is this any different than last spring, when all four of us were remote, and not allowed to work anywhere but our home? The main difference was that in the spring, none of us were synchronously connected. Occasionally we had meetings that overlapped, but not every Monday through Friday, 8 to 3 p.m. So how does a family of four function with four people synchronously learning at the same time for that time during the day?

For one, we really all need our own work space. Do we have that? Luckily, we can make it work, but do all families have that ability? The ability to find four or more individual work spaces? Middle and upper class white families often do. What if you don't? How do you structure your home to be a learning environment, where a family functionally provides the space, the bandwidth, AND the privacy to operate in a synchronous remote fashion?

Working parents don't want their kids at home unsupervised - so synchronous is really great for that - until the bandwidth doesn't work, or their children are on top of each other, or they find space in strange places (basement, bedroom, closet) in a house.

What are we doing with education?! Do educators and schools even know what the goal is anymore?

I feel like we are moving in a direction where we aren't listening to ourselves, and that voice starts to whisper, “This just doesn't seem right.”

I'm not going to belabour how hard this is for teachers, and how little support we are getting from our students, the parents, our own administrators, the community, and our government. The point is more about what we are doing.

Maybe we need to re-evaluate education.

Maybe this is the kick in the pants that we've been waiting for. Education, the way we've always done it - does NOT work. It doesn't work remotely, and frankly, it hasn’t worked normally.

We have to start over!

We are not willing to let go of all of the old ways of education. What is the alternative? Children who hate learning because of the constant battle between them and their teachers, in addition to conflicts with their parents about school?

I wish I had the answer. Here’s the thing - we aren’t the ones who should be deciding what is best for students, because we don't know! If we pretend we do, we've already lost them. If you haven't honestly asked the students in your community what works for them, then you don't truly know.

We are making decisions based on what we think will work. We have to be honest with ourselves - we are building this plane as we're flying it. We have forgotten to ask the passengers on that plane (the students) what they want. To me, that sounds like it doesn't matter what the consumer wants, we are going to tell you what you want and then sell it to you.

It’s not really a surprise to me that education has become a product. I suppose I just didn't want to admit it to myself. We can do better! I can do better! Join me - ask your students what is going to work for them, Let’s not follow blindly behind the people who are telling us what to do - what could they possibly know that you don't and the students don't.

We could, however, work together in a collaborative way and we could create something beautiful.

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