Remote teaching a challenge for education workers with young children

The move to online education following the holiday break has created new challenges for teachers working from home. Not just because of their job, but also because many of them are parents, too, with their own children now at home.

Education workers don't have access to provincial child-care program for school aged children

Kazemzadeh's dining room is often her work space and children's activity area. (Submitted by Niki Kazemzadeh)

Most elementary school students across the province are learning remotely this week.

The move to online following the holiday break has created new challenges for teachers working from home. Not just because of their job, but also because many of them are parents, too, with their own children now at home.

Niki Kazemzadeh, a music teacher at Millen Woods Public School, currently teaches 10 classes a week with approximately 220 students. She also has two children under the age of six at home, with one in remote learning.

Niki Kazemzadeh is a music teacher at Millen Woods Public School. (Submitted by Niki Kazemzadeh)

"It's quite a struggle to balance," she said. "It's a challenge. I've spent a lot of the morning refereeing between commenting and emailing with my students. I have been doing a lot of work at nights and in the mornings to prepare for my teaching day, monitoring my Google classrooms all day, responding to students in between setting up activities for my own children."

Kazemzadeh said many education workers learned about the shift to virtual learning over the holiday break and had to quickly adapt to and prepare for the changes.

"It feels overwhelming most of the time," she said, adding that many other education workers feel the same way.

Often times Kazemzadeh works, her son studies and her daughter colours – all on the same dining room table, all at the same time, she said.

Child-care inaccessible

Education workers do not have access to a provincial program that offers emergency child-care for school-aged children during the remote learning period. 

Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, which represents 86,000 education workers, said that emergency service is only available to those deemed as essential workers by the government such health care workers.

"We think same should apply for education workers," he said.

A representative with the Ministry of Education said in a statement to CBC K-W, "the focus of the time limited, emergency program is on front line workers saving lives in the second wave."

Back to in-person learning 

Hammond said he has concerns with elementary students and staff going back to school next Monday amid a lockdown and increasing COVID-19 case numbers. He said the province needs to better fund safety measures in schools.

"They should be putting the money in to reduce class sizes to 15, which will increase automatically the physical distancing. They should be continuing to improve ventilation, and if they're not prepared to do that then they should reconsider whether the schools are going to open," he said.

He said asymptomatic testing should also be expanded.

"There has been a great deal of anxiety and a great deal of concern and many [education workers] feel they are an afterthought to this government in terms of what they do day in and day out," he said.

The ministry spokesperson said, "our government is focused on investing fully in safe classrooms to protect students and staff from COVID-19. Ontario's plan is fully endorsed by the Chief Medical Officer of Health, and will be strengthened by additional investments and expanded testing to keep schools safe."