The Pros and Cons of Remote Learning
Remote school has certainly been tough, but it hasn’t all been bad. Parents and teachers share how learning from home has impacted kids, both good and bad.
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Jaime Tan, a teacher in Rockland County, says she’s discovered that students really want to be in school. “They leave my class on Friday knowing they won’t be back for a week and their faces drop. I want to give them hugs and tell them to keep up the great work at home that they were able to do while they were in the classroom. However, I know the challenges of working from home are much greater than the desire to do well. When school does return to normal, I believe kids will have a new appreciation for school.”
And, of course, nothing substitutes learning in a school setting when it comes to hands-on activities. As a chemistry teacher, not being able to have hands-on labs has had the most negative impact on my students,” says Wendy B. “Virtual labs and simulations are okay, but nothing substitutes physically being in the lab and observing, measuring, heating, gathering, and analyzing data with lab partners.”
The Positive Effects of Remote Learning
While many young students are struggling, there are some who are actually thriving with remote school. “Students who prefer working alone are really shining,” says Lena Guroian, who teaches at a Bergen County middle school. The same goes for shy kids, whom Guroian says are perhaps more comfortable participating by typing in chat on Jamboard (an interactive whiteboard system) or Padlet (like paper for the screen). Here, it’s their thinking that stands out—not their physical selves, she says. They don’t have to worry about who they will sit next to at lunch or on the bus—situations that make them anxious. “Kids with school phobia are doing well with remote learning,” Duryea adds.
Many teachers also find that technology is benefiting students. “Some technology I’ve been using to record lessons, give extra help, or share my screen have been helpful and allow accessibility for all students,” the physics teacher says. “I can record lessons and share them with students who are absent or who need help. I can meet with students virtually after school hours for extended help.” Since they have no other choice, students are becoming tech wizards. “I think my daughter’s overall problem-solving abilities have expanded in leaps and bounds, whether it’s figuring out some IT issue on her computer or doing research online,” says Michele S.
Fortunately, most kids will get back on track. “The great thing about children is that they’re resilient,” Duryea says. “I’m hopeful that this will become a blip on the radar of their lives,” Guroian adds. “Our students can do catch up if they have the support, motivation, and drive to do so.”
Heather, a New Jersey-based mother of two boys in elementary school and an educator herself, thinks kids’ future success will also depend on their parents. She hired a reading tutor for her younger son, and she and her husband adjusted their work schedules to oversee remote learning. “We, as parents, will continue to support our boys the best we can,” she says. “We’ll give them experiences that encourage their sense of wonder and eagerness to learn. We have the means to do this, both financially and emotionally,” she says. “Many cannot.”
Amy Giesler, a licensed clinical social worker, school-based clinician, registered play therapist, and mother of two from northern New Jersey, summarized it well: “Many children, families, and teachers will emerge from the remote learning experience with new knowledge, skills, memories, and appreciation for the traditional learning environment,” she says. “Values like teamwork, flexibility, and self-discipline have all been promoted through remote learning. Perhaps the most important lesson learned is one that can't be taught through books—the importance of hope, perseverance, and optimism during dark times.”