Hello y’all. It’s been a month of virtual school here in the Nelson household so I figured I would share my thoughts, observations, recommendations, and musings with everyone. Let’s start with our schedule.
First off, we are a little different than most as we have opted to reduce our son’s course load, choosing instead some intensive reading remediation. Our thought is that by focusing on his literacy this year in lieu of a couple classes we will create better overall education in future years. He is doing 4 classes instead of 8, which is okay with us because its much less complex.
Also, Raymond loves virtual learning. He is calmer, more focused, and less aroused from a sensory perspective. This lets him access his education more effectively, which makes his learning easier and more likely to stick. We won’t know that for sure until later in the year, but as of now he is retaining concepts and applying them well.
The downside is that he requires direct support from me or his mother during his school time. Yes, he has a one to one para, but she is also remote and cannot handle things in the environment. I’m talking about things like switching from app to app, managing a bunch of passwords, making sure the rights supplies are handy, and figuring out where to begin his work. It would make life easier were she able to be present, but that support also comes with a risk. At the moment, neither we nor the school division are comfortable with taking that risk.
So here are the problems I see so far. First, there are way too many sites to manage this stuff. Each teacher uses slightly different tools, or sites, which means more logins and passwords. Not that I want to discourage teachers from being creative about teaching and using whatever tool is necessary. However, each tool adds another burden to the student, many of whom are struggling already. Less is more.
I’m a professional and I have a list of websites I use for both of my businesses that are absolutely essential. However, I think the list of sites my son needs for school might outnumber them! Bear in mind that I am a 50-year-old man with a long history of working professionally. My son is an autistic teenager with no work experience and difficulty with executive functioning. How exactly could he be expected to manage this on his own? Why is a typical 16-year-old expected to manage this level of complexity? Its excessive and a waste of time. So, fewer sites is my first note.
My second note is this: SLOW THE HELL DOWN! Some of these teachers talk at light speed. In fact, I decided to help my son by copying down the work he needed to do. By the time I finished copying it down, the teacher had already started presenting her solutions! No way a typical kid had a chance to do that work before she started going through it. My son didn’t come close even with me acting as his scribe, and I write fast.
The real solution, though, is to have that work available before class for kids to print or copy in advance of the lesson. I’m a huge fan of teacher notes being given to kids in advance. Not just for kids who can’t write fast enough, but for all kids. Highlighting can work as well as selective note-taking if the skill is taught.
I could go on about this stuff for a while, but I’m limiting myself to three issues because otherwise this post would devolve into a complaint festival. My final issue is this weird authoritarian interaction I see in some classes. Like “turn on your monitor so I can see you’re here” or “everyone has to speak up at some point in the class or you won’t get participation credit.” Not every teacher does this, but enough of them do it that it deserves a mention.
Not everyone is proud of how their house looks. Some children do not have a secluded location to take their classes. Other kids might have parents sleeping because they work nights. The point is that educators don’t know what these kids are going through just to attend school. Just because my son can handle this doesn’t mean every other child out there can handle it. And my son can only handle it because my wife and I are privileged enough to buy a big enough house for him to work in, and can schedule our days to make sure we can spend time with him for school. Not every parent has that ability, and that is not judgement on my part. That is fact. So, find different ways to engage.
Some teachers have students use the “thumbs up” button for participation. Some have kids type in the chat for participation. Those are much better ways to engage everyone, as it’s a level playing field.
Despite the issues I’ve noted, I do feel like our teachers are doing the absolute best that they can. If this virtual education experiment doesn’t work, it is far more likely that lack of support on the ground level will be why. So be kind to your teachers, thank them for their efforts, and give them constructive feedback instead of complaints. I promise you that it will be easier to solve your problems that way.
If you want to talk about your kid specifically, sign up for one of my free 20-minute consultations. Happy learning!