UWS Parents Want More Real-Time Video Teaching; Some Don’t Want Kids In School Before a Vaccine is Released

By Mariel Priven

Parents spoke out in a meeting over Zoom on Thursday night about the successes and failures of remote learning during the pandemic. Students have been learning from home for three months now, and the CEC3, a parent group that operates a little like a school board, wanted to know how students and parents were handling things.

A few revelations came out of the meeting: Parents like it when teachers do daily live teaching on videoconference software, instead of just posting assignments for kids to complete. And several parents expressed hesitancy about sending their children back to buildings before a vaccine is available.

CEC3’s Equity and Excellence Committee met to reflect on the successes and failures of remote learning, while keeping in mind the possibility that remote learning will continue into the 2020–2021 academic term. Educators, administrators, parents, and students from District 3 were there to share their experiences.

The meeting focused on what went well, what needs change, and what should be seen moving forward across three realms: remote learning, assessments, and special education plans.

When discussing remote learning, many parents and other participants expressed positive feedback in the following areas:

When acknowledging more difficult and frustrating aspects of remote learning, participants mentioned:

One PS 165 parent shared her frustration that “some classes meet their teacher only once a week whereas other classes meet more frequently.” She explained that it was very frustrating “to not have a coherent plan as a school. It’s not a lot to ask that all teachers be live with their students daily. Even for short amount of time with small groups throughout the week.”

Frustration with the amount of time spent using technology was echoed by several parents. “We don’t want screen time for our kids at this age, so we would like more physical books, writing with pen/pencil on paper and workbooks moving forward. It’s very stressful and it seems more platforms are being introduced,” shared one parent. Another added that “so much time during the day has adversely impacted my kids; affecting their sleep, encouraging them to sit for very long periods of time and wanting to be on the screen for play time/leisure as well.” District 3 has highlighted some ways that schools have been using remote learning in its latest newsletter.

As participants discussed the successes and failures of remote assessments, what worked for some students was less fitting for others. Some parents, for instance, were grateful that their children had the opportunity to be assessed in a quiet environment, free of typical classroom distractions. Others, however, worried that children will develop learning habits specific to these quiet spaces, and will be less productive when they return to the classroom environment. Certain differences were more school- or teacher-specific. Some parents and students received strong and individualized feedback shortly after assessments, while others continued receiving assignments and assessments without feedback from prior submissions.

Finally, when the conversation turned to the transition of special education plans to online platforms, participants shared positive feedback about trends that they hope to see continued in the fall. Parents explained that there had been streamlining of lessons between therapists and teachers, so that, for instance, a student could use his or her occupational therapy session to complete a handwriting assignment given in another class. However, challenges arose as well. Educators shared that there were fewer opportunities to redirect students’ attention, such as with eye contact or a reminder to keep one’s feet on the ground.

The conversation did not spend much time on whether parents are okay with schools reopening in the fall. But in the Zoom meeting’s chat, at least three parents wrote that they would not feel comfortable sending their children to school in the fall if a vaccine has not been developed. Others demonstrated interest in a hybrid model to satisfy the needs and concerns of all parents, so that remote learning remains an option, while limited physical interactions return to some degree. Experts don’t expect a vaccine to be available until 2021 at the earliest.

Photo by Nenad Stojkovic.

NEWS, SCHOOLS | 24 comments | permalink
    1. UWsider says:

      No school until a vaccine is extreme. I don’t think people realize the social and emotional damage to young kids from being trapped at home without peer social interaction for months on end. And are we really going to tell parents they can’t go back to work for another year? All of this on the speculative hope there is a vaccine by mid-2021?

      The teachers are doing a heroic job bringing online learning to reality. But cold hard truth – no matter what they do it is and will always be a very poor substitute for the real thing.

    2. Alex says:

      seems a stretch, nearly clickbait, to include the vaccination angle in the headline, given that it’s really a footnote in the article, based on only 3 parents saying something in a zoom chat.

    3. Juan says:

      Different ages have very different needs. Younger kids (roughly k-2) need a lot more parental support. This is very challenging if all parents are also working. There are parents in my child’s class who will just put their child in front of the computer for a class meeting – I don’t think this works out very well. I can sit next to my child and partially engage in other things while she is doing a class meeting, but I have to be present. As a result, having too many class meetings at specified times is very challenging to balance with parental work schedules.

      Older kids can be much more self-directed so scheduling is less of an issue. My older child’s teacher has done a great balance of direct meetings and doing work on your own.

      As a parent I have gotten very little feedback on their work, but I can log into their account and see the feedback they are getting, and that is sufficient for me. I am taking a very active role in the learning process, particularly for my younger child. It is absolutely exhausting to do this and manage a full time job, but my child’s education is a top priority. My children are fortunate to have excellent, engaged teachers and I know they are doing the best they can. If anything, I would like more work for my kids, but there are only so many assignments a teacher can create and they do make an effort to provide some extra work. One suggestion would be that they do more independent reading and have writing assignments based on this reading – my older child is required to read but it is a race to the finish and I don’t think there is anyway to demonstrate critical thinking about any of the reading.

    4. Cali says:

      Not sure who was interviewed but no parent I know wants to wait until there is a vaccine! Paranoid parents there.

    5. HB says:

      To the degree that school functions as providing care for children (apart from the question of educating them), it seems that employers should step up, collectively, to try to ease the burden of expectation that is placed on both parents and schools. Of course employers are under pressure right now on many fronts, but one way to help would be to officially and explicitly accept a lower level of productivity from parents, temporarily, so there is less pressure on parents and schools. In what I’m reading here and elsewhere, the needs of employers seems to be treated as a given, an unquestioned exigency. Why?

      Separately, it would also help if schools could temporarily ease attendance requirements, to give parents who are able to, and who are concerned about sending their kids to school before it’s safe, some flexibility about when to send their kids back even after public schools open. This would also mean less crowding for those who do go back.

      • anon says:

        ” to officially and explicitly accept a lower level of productivity from parents” sounds nice but when layoffs are needed who would any manager lay off? When it is time to promote someone do you pick the person who has done the most and best work or do you pick the person who has put family first? I worry that this would lead to parents, especially mothers, falling behind in the workplace. Maybe this is fine for a years but would it lead to an underlying bias against mothers?

        • HB says:

          I agree those are major dangers in this, but they could be overcome and avoided if there were will and organization among employers. Treating it as an inherent part of work life is, sadly, accurate about the way things are now. But I am suggesting that employers think and act in a new and different way, again only temporarily, as a collective effort to help schools and parents. My main point is that in this complex equation, schools and parents are scrambling to accommodate employers as if employers are an immovable “given” who can do nothing new or different. Why can’t they be asked to contribute creatively by not penalizing parents, especially mothers.

    6. Brandon says:

      “Parents like it when teachers do daily live teaching on videoconference software, instead of just posting assignments for kids to complete.”

      The problem is, the teachers union says teachers can not be required to do this. My kids are in high school (not in D3) and in most of their classes there has been no instruction at all. They are simply assigned chapters to read, problems to do, and papers to write. It is awful. They are not receiving an education.

    7. D3 parent says:

      I know dozens of parents and none who want to wait for a vaccine to send their kids back to school. What if it takes years? What if an effective vaccine is never developed? The economic and emotional cost to the city, and to children, outweighs the risks here.

      • HB says:

        I know many parents who are very concerned about returning their children to school in the fall. I understand those who are not as concerned, and they are welcome to send their kids back, but I think it’s a very reasonable position to be highly concerned, and room should be made for that view. That is why I suggest suspending attendance rules. Gathering in an enclosed space for over and hour or two is near the top of the most risky behaviors, and that’s the definition of school. Especially in the fall/winter.

    8. RCP says:

      People need to stop whining. Unbelievably pathetic how wimpy New Yorkers have become. Grow up.

    9. Will says:

      I’ve heard a lot of talk from parents feeling that large gatherings make them uncomfortable until there’s a vaccine and school falls under that category. It’s a strain at home, but most of us feel like there really isn’t an option to keep us and our loved ones safe. It’s refreshing to see this discussed in an online forum.

    10. uws teacher says:

      I’m leaving this comment because several people said that “no parents want to wait until there’s a vaccine”. I’m a teacher so I know hundreds and hundreds of parents. I know of one UWS school in which 15% of parents said they would prefer that their kids stay online.

      • Eric says:

        uws teacher,
        Can you educate us as to why teachers are not online in front of the camera for the same number of days and hours each week that they would stand in front of a classroom? I am genuinely ignorant of why kids aren’t being given at least this basic form of online instruction for the same number of hours they normally would get.
        Thanks.

        • uws teacher says:

          I think it depends on the school, I can only speak for mine. I was live with kids every day for the past three months. I taught fewer hours, but that wasn’t by my choice. My school didn’t give the same amount of live instruction as in-school instruction would have been, but that’s because we don’t think it’s healthy for kids to be in front of screens all day long. Many teachers, including myself, offered many additional hours of one-on-one work with students.

          • UWS Parent says:

            I appreciate there are some parents who may choose to keep their children home – and that’s their choice – but 15% means 85% want their kids back in school. That 15% can choose to home school or whatever makes them comfortable and is the right decision for their families. Schools and in-person learning are a necessity – full stop.

          • uws mom says:

            uws teacher,
            I believe you were live online for many hours a day. I have a child at Bronx Science, supposedly one of the best high schools in the city, and of his 7 classes 5 of the teachers have had no live sessions. Not one minute of instruction since March 13th. One of those 5 is gym so I don’t care. One teacher is live almost every day and the other a couple of times a week. The students are given lots of work. They are told to read pages in their math books and do problems, or watch a video about a chemistry topic and answer some questions. It is not teaching. If anyone believed this was adequate we would do away with schools entirely and just have kids learn via Khan Academy.

            We all know there will be some sort of distance learning next school year. Teachers need to be required to teach. Why would the teachers union or individual teachers be against this?

        • AnotherUWSTeacher says:

          The same way teachers cannot mandate any student be present for a live class at a particular time, schools cannot mandate that teachers go live at a particular time. Why? We have no idea what’s happening at home – teachers may be sole caregiver for their own young kids at home; they may have other family members in a crowded household; they may have shoddy internet. We try to have boundless empathy for our students’ capacity to engage in learning while in potentially trying home environments that are no doubt riddled with distractions. We must have that same empathy and flexibility for teachers.

          I also spend many hours having one-on-one meetings with students. The number of students who need extra support, have special learning needs, are struggling with their mental health, or just desperately need some human connection is massive. I can say with confidence that many students will be passing this year solely as a result of those individual meetings with the teachers. That time combined with the hours of planning, grading, team meetings, calls with parents, admin, co-teachers, leaves little time to breathe. Please do not think we are lazy just because you don’t see much live instruction. We are all trying our best.

          • anon says:

            AnotherUWTeacher,
            You may be doing everything you can, that does not mean all teachers are. While I have sympathy for teachers this year, this can’t continue. If teachers can’t have any live instruction because of their family situations another teacher should be found. Just like under normal circumstances if you couldn’t be in school a substitute would be found.

            If a student can’t attend a class that impacts that student’s education. If a teacher can’t that impacts 25-35 students.

    11. Westsidegal says:

      There may never be a vaccine.

    12. Skye says:

      What about working parents? Are the schools going to provide childcare and nannies for families with two working parents or single parents?

    13. Abc says:

      Those who want to keep there child home should be able to continue with remote learning. Those who want normal school should have normal school.
      Yes there should be at least 4 hours of live remote learning a day but it is not in the teachers union contract.
      I can’t work from home, i’ve worked everyday during this pandemic and ride the subway 3 hours a day.
      When i get home i see 100 oeople drinking in front if jacobs pickles. Now i feel disrespected

    14. Uws parent says:

      I will NOT send my kids to school while there is no vaccine, no treatment or not antivirals.

      I want to have the option to remain with online learning. It has been a struggle but I want my family to stay healthy.

      I also care about putting the teachers and stuff in danger.

      Although people gather outside in groups and everything seems right, epidemiologists predict there will be many more deaths.

    15. AmyRose H. says:

      As someone who has worked with kids in the past, I urge parents to reconsider their actions before sending their Kids to an in person class with a “cold” . Teachers and classroom aides are just as paranoid to return To work and get sick. I also urge parents to contact the dept of health to get the official 411 on social distancing guidelines for any in person classes (private and public schools) and hold those establishments accountable for your children’s wellbeing. Don’t be so blind to your kids need to be social and outside with a bunch of strangers that health is compromised. Use common sense please.