Listening to teachers is the key to safe classroom learning this fall


Remember when teachers advocated for smaller class sizes, cleaner classrooms, and more technology training? In the age of COVID-19, those demands are more relevant and necessary than ever—and if schools had only listened to teachers from the beginning, they might have been better equipped for classroom learning this fall.

This week, Alberta withdrew physical distancing measures from their classrooms. Realistically, these measures would be near impossible to implement in classes of, on average, thirty students. But instead of removing physical distancing completely, the province should find alternate ways to protect its students and staff.

For families who are unable to afford childcare or time off work, in-person classes are a necessity. But for kids staying home this fall, the question becomes whether or not online classes are as high quality as in-person ones. Most teachers have never taught online before and learning how to can be difficult, especially for older educators.

Teachers must also prepare material for both in-person students and online ones, which further complicates education this fall.

In a perfect world, all classes would be online to eliminate any possibility of spreading the virus at schools. Teachers would be better taught how to use online learning platforms and technology.

Unfortunately, this is unrealistic, but schools can still do the next best thing: use every resource they have to keep students and staff safe. That means listening to teachers’ calls to actions.

Instead of scrapping physical distancing measures completely, schools should try to enforce them as best they can, implementing smaller class sizes when possible. Hiring additional staff to teach online classes is also important, as this will make online classes more appealing and encourage kids to stay home if able.

Ultimately, kids are kids, and will undoubtedly break physical distancing measures and mask mandates any chance they get. But school employees should still attempt to enforce these protocols to the best of their abilities, as they’re our best tools against the coronavirus.

Protecting staff and students outside of school is equally important, a responsibility that lies on the federal government’s shoulders. Having support systems in place for parents across the country is necessary to increase the number of students taking online classes. Doing so would help ease fears of potential outbreaks at schools.

There’s no right answer in the online versus in-person classes debate. Outbreaks might be inevitable, but schools should use everything in their arsenals to keep students and staff safe in the classroom, while also ensuring online classes are up to the same standard as in-person ones.

—Journal Editorial Board


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