We’ve been online since March; I opened my presents long before the holidays

“When we get back to normal…”

“When we finally go back to school…”

“We’ll be going back soon.”

“When this online learning thing is over…”

It’s holiday-vacation season for LPS students & teachers. Spoiler alert: lots of sleeping-in, food, family time, catching-up on books & TV, staying up late…

And presents!

But I already opened up a lot of my presents, way back in March when I moved from a classroom to a living room, like many students did worldwide. And no, I’m not talking about avoiding traffic like here in Los Angeles, or being able to eat a better lunch everyday. I’m talking about all the different, but still great learning that’s been happening since many kids traded-in school desks for sofas & beds while logging into zoom for class.

Yes, many kids really are learning — and effectively — on Zoom, in 2020, during a pandemic.

Maybe not everyone has figured that out yet. Or maybe never will, sadly. It’s understandable, since those four sentences above have been repeated by millions of parents, administrators, and the media for almost a year now as teachers and their students have been making it work everyday in spite of bad WiFi and countless other reasons those four dastardly sentences could have prevailed.

But I have happy students who appreciate that bit of extra time to let the Algebra lessons sink-in. And the ones who’ve enjoyed a small break from middle school social pressures that aren’t as galactic on zoom. And the ability to have 30 kids learn at their own pace, independently or together, however they choose. And I’ve had significantly less absences since my students can learn from a kitchen table, their bed with a slight cold, in a moving car as they go to Mexico, or outside under their favorite tree in the backyard — their classroom is wherever they can connect. I’ve seen younger siblings sit-in on learning how to solve an algebraic expression. I’ve watched parents have an a-ha moment after watching their children learn a math concept from 20 years ago that miraculously makes sense only now (yes, I’m happy to help students of all ages!).

Of course, it hasn’t been perfect. There have been challenges and a lot of trial & error. But that doesn’t mean learning online has to be 100% wrong. I’ve watched administrators make statements like, I know you all can’t wait to go back to school, right? Yes of course you do as little kindergarteners or 1st graders say, “yes!” But I’m sure that a poll of LPS students, most of whom are in the Middle School grades, would show that a significant portion of them would like to remain online, and an overwhelming majority would probably indicate they would like to remain online for at least some of their school experience. Maybe those dozen K-Pop fans in my class would be thrilled to connect with a teacher in South Korea to learn about their culture for an hour a week. It’s only really possible in our current learning environment, or if we take this new back to the old.

Can American education learn from online learning? Will schools try to incorporate some of what’s happening now in zoom into the “regular classroom world” that inevitably will return?

I hope so. Because I’ve loved opening-up these beautiful presents!

And it’s not even December 25th yet.

Written by LPS teacher Ed Mallillin, published December 21, 2020


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