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Opinion: Open Letter from a Bladen County Teacher on Virtual Learning

Why Virtual Learning is Awesome

Hi there. I’m a current local teacher. I’ve asked to be kept anonymous to protect myself and my family. It’s not that I’m saying anything untoward, trust me. It’s just that I didn’t exactly get permission from my boss to speak to the press, so I can’t present myself in any sort of authority other than as a private citizen. But I got so tired of hearing all the negatives about virtual school, and someone had to tell you how awesome it can really be.

Listen, I know that last spring was kind of a disaster. Actually, it was literally a disaster. COVID-19 came along and wrecked our whole semester. And the online learning we scraped together then wasn’t the greatest. But, hear me, it’s so much better this fall. 

I’ve always used digital resources in my classroom, but it’s been a struggle to get the kids engaged because it didn’t feel individualized and personalized enough. Using tools like Flipgrid, not only can I respond to your kids individually, but I can truly give them my undivided attention for the first time in my entire teaching career. When it’s virtual, I don’t have to manage behaviors and deal with all of the logistics behind getting 25+ people in a classroom altogether. I can really listen to what they’re saying and I can offer truly individualized feedback–you know, the kind of feedback that changes lives and improves students’ skills. I can really be there for them in a way I just wasn’t able to before. Parents, you know how important it is to give individual attention to your kids. Now I can do that too, without having my attention split between twenty other people in the room. I’m so excited about what this means for me and for them–but most especially for how much more I can help them with their skills because I can give them the gift of my attention and time. 

Remember after-school tutoring? I sure do. I also remember how hard it was to actually get students to attend because it just didn’t fit in their schedules. They didn’t have a way home if they missed the bus, or they had ball practice, or maybe they rode home with parents or friends and their rides couldn’t stay back to wait for them. Now our office hours are in the early afternoon, students know when they are because they’re the same in the whole school, and it’s easy for them to stop by for a minute or two to get the help they need. So many students have taken advantage of this, and it’s only day three! Imagine the good that can come of this over time.   

I have unbelievable moderator powers in these Google Meets. Bullying in my class? No way! I can mute people, or even kick them out of the digital class–which means I can protect your children like never before. I have always tried to protect my students like they were my own, but I can’t be everywhere all the time. You all probably have stories about a kid that got bullied because the bully waited until the teacher’s back was turned. That shouldn’t happen anymore–because, thanks to the virtual environment, I can be pretty much everywhere all the time.  

Do you know how absolutely creative we can be online? I can take my kids on virtual field trips we never would’ve been able to do in person! If we’re learning about London, I can use Google Street View to walk them through the streets, explaining the history like a tour guide while they experience a (pretty good, in my opinion) simulation of the city. There are online drawing simulators, online dissections…if it’s something we do in class, I can probably (but not always) find something online that’s as good (if not better) than what I’d have been able to do in person. 

Your kid had a doctor’s appointment and had to miss class? Now that’s not an issue, because all of our lessons are recorded and posted online within hours of when they actually happened. Scheduling for you is now a breeze. Now, I’m not suggesting you intentionally miss our online class times here–but, as we all know, life happens and sometimes things come up. It’s easier than ever for your children to stay with the class and not fall behind.  

How about life skills? Just this week, my students learned how to make videos and compose appropriate emails. My kids are now prepared to interact with professional institutions through their email accounts. I made a Screencastify video and walked them through the whole thing. And, if they ever get confused or forget something, they can go back anytime they need to, rewatch it, and figure out what to do. How cool is that?  

I know you want your kids back in physical school, and we want them back too. Virtual school lacks in collaboration and working together, though even that can be simulated somewhat. But I don’t want you to focus on the negatives here. I hope I’ve been able to help you see just some of the good that can come from us being online–I had to stop myself from writing because there are just so many more good things I could say!  

I am so excited to begin the school year with your kids, and I hope they’re having as much fun as I am with these virtual lessons. I promise I’m using every minute of my time to make this the best semester ever, COVID or no, and I truly believe both in what we’re doing and that we’re doing the right thing having school online this semester. The safety and education of your children means everything to me. Please trust me when I say that virtual school, though it surely has problems (what doesn’t?), can be such a positive experience for everyone! 

 

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