Students, teachers facing some real challenges navigating remote learning

BOSTON — ​School’s out for, well, it’s a date that keeps changing.

Friday, nonprofit Educators for Excellence organized more than a dozen teachers and city leaders for a Virtual Town Hall to discuss challenges with remote learning.

"There are pockets of success and deep pockets of failure says Joellen Persad, an Educator at Madison Park High School in Boston. "And there are moments where you feel like things are going well, and there are other times where you are like, ‘what is actually happening?'”

These teachers say lack of clear guidance on testing, graduation is contributing to the overall anxiety felt by students who have loved ones affected by the coronavirus.

Caroline Ballou is a teacher at East Boston High school. She says, "All I can say to them is I don’t know. I’m sorry. They are already grieving loss of so many of their senior experiences.”

Food insecurity for families is an issue across the board, with special challenges in immigrant populations. Record high unemployment and healthcare access are derailing some remote learning efforts.

"I have students who are being asked to go and work still. They work in supermarkets, they work in restaurants that are open. And some of them are working six days a week. And they might be the only person in their family able to earn an income right now, so they’ve expressed being scared,” Ballou explains. ”When one teacher was bringing food to a family, that family was concerned it was ICE and didn’t open the door.”

One of the major issues is access to the internet. Even if students get their hands on a device. Some cable service providers are only giving them free internet for two months.

Umana Academy educator, Cristina Chan says, “We have so many kids that don’t have the resources for this to happen...hard to contact them. These challenges made our school fall behind in the online stuff. Some of them, kinda like homeless it was hard to really contact them.”

Boston city councilor Andrea Campbell told teachers, she’s working to eliminate what she says has been historic inequities in Boston Public Schools.

“Our black and brown families, our English language learners are most vulnerable, which is most of the district population, have been suffering for some time," says Campbell in the virtual meeting. "And I hate to use the word a silver lining, but I hope this is an opportunity for us to do something different. I don’t want to go back to the normal.”

One of the things a lot of the teachers say they wish their districts had done differently is engage the students first on how they’re doing with all this, and then roll them into the lessons.

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