In March, schools worldwide had been forced to transition to remote learning due to safety precautions for COVID-19.
Dr. Elvin T. Ramos and Ms. Ella Marie Ramos are both educators who have experienced that and are now wrapping up the academic year with their students online. Dr. Ramos is the Dean of Social Sciences and Humanities at De Anza College, a community college in Cupertino, California. Ms. Ella, as her students call her, is a Pre-Kindergarten teacher at Little Friends School in Sunnyside, New York.
Though both Dr. Ramos and Ms. Ella teach two opposite age groups, on opposite sides of the country, their experiences and opinions are rather similar; they just want the best for their students.
Regarding his struggles with remote learning, Dr. Ramos said, “My biggest struggles during remote learning include trying to make sure that my students have access to the internet and trying to find the time to personally work with each student. There is definitely much more communication needed now more than ever to make sure that my students not only are on track, but that they excel despite the circumstances. It’s challenging, but I’m glad to see how quickly my students and I were able to adapt to learning/teaching from home.”
Similarly, Ms. Ella said,“My biggest struggle would have to be meeting the individual needs of all my students. Being that I teach 4-5 year olds, getting them engaged through the screen is challenging in comparison to being in the classroom. In the classroom, we can implement a variety of learning techniques for the kids, such as music and movement, hands-on manipulatives, and visual aids.”
However, despite the struggles they face, they are still finding things to be grateful for during this remote learning experience.
“I would have to say the best part is that it gives everyone a chance to work at their own pace. I personally became more flexible and understanding towards my students and it’s very humbling to be able to empathize more with them. It makes the teacher-student bond stronger as we become more in unison due what’s currently happening in the world,” said Dr. Ramos.
“Though this is not the ideal way to teach my students, the best part for me is the family engagement involved in each lesson. Since, my students are young, parent/guardian involvement is needed and appreciated. It’s nice to see them being active participants and learning alongside their child, creating a common ground,” Ms Ella said.
Both educators also shared the changes they want to see being made if schools open back up in the Fall.
Dr. Ramos said, “In hopes that campuses open back up, I want to make sure that the institution permits the flexibility for our students to continue. Just because we are back on campus doesn’t mean that the loss and tragedy that we dealt with goes away. Also, I want students to have the individual choice of whether they want to stay home or return to campus. As we transition back to campus, of course for safety reasons, we should limit the amount of students in the classrooms so students should be able to speak up and decide where they feel most comfortable learning. If it is decided that we will continue remote learning into the Fall semester, I think schools should provide care packages including free laptops or other devices and free access to faster internet in their homes. I’ve personally dealt with a few students who do not have access to those things, so we had the school send refurbished devices.”
Lastly, Ms. Ella said, “If schools open back up in September, I hope that our classrooms will be taken care of more than ever. Because I work with 4-5 year olds, things can get very icky, very fast. I’m not sure what exactly I expect but I just hope that whatever the plan is, it prioritizes the safety of both faculty and the kids. If the state comes to the decision that it is not safe to open up for the new school year, I hope we teachers can find more ways in being active and connecting with our kids, especially those with disabilities, IEP’s, etc.”
To add onto these educators’ worries, starting school remotely can cause a lack of connection in these teacher-student relationships. Luckily, now, these students and teachers are familiarized with one another, but that may not be the case in the next school year. As a student, I can say that the online communication between teacher and students is nowhere near as effective as communication in the classroom.
Despite being educators in two totally different demographics, surely Dr. Ramos and Ms. Ella speak for the vast majority of educators when they say that in these unprecedented times, the students’ well beings should be put first.
Thank you to all educators for helping your students during this time. Though there may be select students that don’t acknowledge it when you reach out, continue doing a great job in keeping the communication open. You too are adjusting the same way your students are, your efforts don’t go unnoticed!