Michol Whitney has a message for her colleagues.
“The one thing I encourage my colleagues and all members to remember is to treat their virtual buildings the same as they would the physical building,” she said. “Our contract language is the same no matter where we are.”
That’s good advice as educators transition to “virtual teaching,” with its inevitable difficulties for students and teachers alike.
Communicating with Families
“I’m keeping in communication with my families and I’ve even posted a video of me doing an easy science project on YouTube,” she said. “The parents have been sending me pictures and videos of their children doing the work. I give feedback, but it’s not the same.”
The pre-k teacher at Locke Elementary, which serves a mostly low-income, Latinx population, is concerned about her students and their parents, many of whom are still working and stressed out at the thought of expanded online learning.
“Already, parents are contacting me with concerns about not being able to sign their children in, having to share one computer with several children at a time, glitches in the system,” she said. “And some parents are still working and don’t see how they will make this work with their schedule.”
Many teachers feel those same stresses–several of Whitney’s colleagues have their own young children at home or are caring for elderly relatives. They worry about conducting remote lessons with their own young ones or family members underfoot.
“Just like our parents, I think a great number of teachers are stressed out by not knowing what to expect in the weeks to come,” she said.
Fighting for Resources
Whitney also is troubled by CPS’ lack of resources and failure to provide technology, especially to schools serving low-income students.
“There are suburban districts that have been doing remote learning in some form for years and they are prepared for it,” she said. “I don’t see CPS having the capacity to support our families with the needed resources, like the Internet and computers, for this way of learning.”
The best way to address these and other concerns, she said, is to bring them immediately to the school’s Professional Problems Committee (PPC) so they can be dealt with before the problem gets out of hand.
“A strong PPC lets staff know they are valued and their concerns will be addressed immediately,” she said. “And it lets your principal know that you understand our contract and believe in enforcing it.”