As teachers reinvent teaching and parents supervise schooling, fears grow of students falling through cracks
Educators, guardians grapple with challenges of 'emergency remote teaching' during COVID-19 pandemic
The lessons Cindy Dalglish has received from the teachers of her two children are optional, but she doesn't treat them that way.
Dalglish, an education advocate from Surrey, B.C., is trying to keep the lives of her children, aged seven and 12, as normal as possible at a time when everything is unusual — and that means maintaining a learning schedule.
"Trying to keep on top of the technology has been a challenge," she said.
"We're lucky because we have computers in our house, but I think of other families that don't have computers at home."
Access to technology is one of many issues school districts have been scrambling to address since the province suspended in-class instruction last month due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Surrey Teachers' Association president Matt Westphal says it's a massive job to address each student's needs, when they can range from providing meals to assistance with university applications.
"Some teachers literally have hundreds of students, and they're grappling with how they're going to reinvent their teaching practice, because they'll have to do things entirely differently," he said.
"This is emergency remote teaching."
Dalglish's children are both in French immersion and have been meeting their teachers online to practise their language skills. They're also learning new talents at home.
"Today, we're making cream puffs," Dalglish said. "We're getting creative."
Westphal says parents' expectations are as wide-ranging as the needs of students. Some expect lessons to carry on as if nothing has changed and others want their children to take the remainder of the year off.
"We don't hear many complaints saying we're not doing enough," he said.
"If anything, we're hearing people say it's too much and it's actually very overwhelming."
He says teachers are mindful that every child's home-learning environment is different, especially when many people are concerned about childcare or have lost their jobs.
"Please be patient because this is not school as usual," Westphal said.
"Please don't expect everything to be the same as it was and also please be honest with teachers about what you can and cannot do."
Mary-Em Waddington, executive director of the B.C. Technology for Learning Society, says she's concerned about how low-income families will cope with online learning.
The province says some school districts and independent schools will loan out equipment, such as computers, but Waddington fears many students will fall through the cracks.
"This is reinforcing the whole reality that so many families don't have access to technology and don't have access to WiFi in their homes," said Waddington, a mother of two.
"The digital divide is still very much alive."
When things get back to normal, Waddington hopes there will be a serious discussion about access to technology in B.C.
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