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Teacher reveals challenges of remote learning

Assessing pupils has been the toughest challenge presented by remote learning, a public-school teacher said this week.

Ayesha Brown, at Paget Primary School, said: “For older students, online-created assessments are an option, but for five and six-year-olds who are still learning how to read, this isn't feasible without parental support.

“Monitoring things like letter and numerical formation, sentence and paragraph writing, responding to maths questions, et cetera, is tricky.”

Ms Brown said that the support to children from parents had been “awesome” — sometimes too much so. She explained: “I often have to remind parents to let their child figure out tasks on their own.”

The teacher said that the move to remote learning forced by school closures because of Covid-19 had been a “leap outside of the norms of teaching in classroom” and that the lack of direct contact with pupils was a problem.

However, she said that technology allowed teachers to “truly enhance learning for students”.

Ms Brown had never heard of videoconferencing app Zoom before schools were closed, but has now become “relatively proficient”.

She said: “I have been able to create surveys for parents and guardians to express their views on matters that pertain to their child. I've had to dig deep to find ways to reach my students in the various areas of reading, writing, math and science in a way that is meaningful and productive.”

Ms Brown was “confident” that she was still able to provide high-quality instruction.

She admitted: “It's not the same as being right there in the classroom looking over their shoulder, observing their thinking, or providing on-the-spot feedback and suggestions.

“Additionally, a classroom setting provides opportunities for those teachable ‘aha' moments, such as occasions when students would ask insightful questions that weren't a part of the lesson, but add to enriching discussion.

“I still try to make the experience fun, but it's definitely not the same. I do miss the laughter.”

She teaches two Zoom sessions a day — one in the morning and one in the evening — and speaks to pupils and parents during the day.

Ms Brown added: “On average, I have anywhere from eight to 11 students in the course of a day. Several students do not have devices or only have access to a parent's mobile phone.

“Additionally, I know for some parents who are working during the day, it's sometimes challenging ensuring that their child gets on regularly.” The support from fellow teachers has been outstanding.

Ms Brown said: “Everyone has been Zooming since Day 1, to glean and support each other and work towards the common goal of providing a nurturing — albeit virtual — environment where our students know that we still love them and are doing the very best to ensure that they receive quality instruction.”

The teacher did not expect schools to restart before the scheduled summer break.

Ms Brown added: “It could possibly work for older students in high school regarding social-distancing, but at the primary school level, I doubt it.

“The first thing students will want to do on returning is to hug their teachers and their friends.”

Ms Brown said that social-distancing would also be difficult to enforce in classrooms where pupils shared tables and materials.

She added: “So much preparation would have to be carried out to even ensure that the classrooms are safe, so I can't see it happening.”

Ms Brown said that she had not seen anything to suggest that schools would be reopened before it was safe to do so and that she was not opposed to the school year being extended.

She added: “We've lost so much time already and the only vacations anyone will be taking for a while are staycations, so why not continue teaching?”

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Published May 12, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated May 12, 2020 at 9:39 am)

Teacher reveals challenges of remote learning

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