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  • Rose M Bresolin

School's Out For The....



For many of us, this time of physical distancing might start us thinking about the part of our own learning that we could contribute as we begin to stock a communal pot.

We humans are social, and it’s vital that we keep connected socially. Since writing is a channel I’ve often used for connecting, I decided that after consulting with my colleagues in education to get an inside look at the changes in the learning delivery models, I would write an overview for my readers. I’ll try to stay true to what they told me, in case educator Sonia of the novel Advent is looking over my shoulder.

The earlier plan to use the blog for sharing out more of your experiences during our time in isolation will be taken up again, down the road. To walk together through an understanding of the current shift in the way that education reaches our children, presents us with a most immediate opportunity for connecting. Also important is that we understand how that change will re- shape the way we and our neighbors will experience daily life, and become cognizant of the impact it is having on our educators.

So, for now the Strada that we walk together is the one where we devote more of our attention to our children, our handle on the pulse of the future. The interest shown in what’s going on in their minds is sure to impact their productivity and our future.

Let’s open with Kudos to our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, in arranging for two astronauts, exemplary models of self isolation, to answer questions that kids were invited to send in earlier. The session hosted by Jeremy Hansen and David St-Jacques is being posted on YouTube today, Sunday, April 5.

The information I gathered from my colleagues outlines the newly adapted education delivery model, the Distance Learning Plans, for Toronto and the rest of Ontario, Canada. Other provinces are also gauging their needs and ensuring that their students can complete their school year.

On Monday, April 6, online instruction for elementary and high school students will begin. As it pertains to curriculum, nothing has changed – the curriculum being applied retains the alignment with that issued for the province by the Ministry of Ontario.

In the transition period, school boards have prepared a Guide for Parents and surveyed the availability of computers in their homes. In some cases, computers have been transferred from schools and school boards into homes. Ensuring access and support have been paramount. Where internet use is not an option, non-tech alternatives have been put in place.

School staffs have been corroborating as they set up new timetables to deliver learning and to get them into homes. Teachers will use the secured virtual learning environments as directed by their boards. Students have been given set times for lessons by their teachers. For high school students there are 4 courses of 3 hours each provided weekly. The 3 hours represents a minimum. Elementary students in grades 7 and 8 are provided with 10 hours of weekly instruction by teachers, and Kindergarten to grade 6 have 5 hours.

Consideration for the homes with children in more than one age group was included in drafting the schedules to prevent overlapping in demand for computers within a home; the amount of time assigned for students is also something that had to be thoroughly thought through, in the awareness that the new responsibility can add significantly to the stress on families already feeling financial burden, and it also holds potential to impose strain on their relationships.

With the former routines for structuring a day gone out the window, in this new scenario our best hope is that our children come to view the changes in the educational environment as an opportunity for more autonomy and independence.

The Ministry has gone the distance in the plans for Distance Learning. A lot of changes to the way teaching is done. It's proving stressful for many of our teachers. Making the required technological changes in such a short period of time, has been challenging, but they’re on it. What I found most encouraging in my discussion with a few Teachers and Principals was to hear them speaking about their positive approaches to harness their anxiety. A good deal of excitement over the new ways was exchanged, and I share one of the accounts with you:

A high school drama teacher outlined how she was gearing to structure in more opportunities to keep her students connected. One such strategy is her intent to post additional lessons to keep them engaged and interacting with one another. Capitalizing on the reality that social interaction between her students as a group is important, she plans to make herself available to answer questions as they go through the writing and the staging of their individual and group plays. By helping them to visualize as they work towards culmination of their assignments, she hopes the performance night that’s scheduled will double in as a fun and memorable social.

I caught her wave of excitement and am reminded that it is in our display of a genuine curiosity for how young minds work, that they invest more deeply in their own learning. And with education temporarily shifted from the classroom, we can all become contributors to the distance learning.

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Rose Bresolin

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