Monday, September 14, 2020

Bobson Wong, HS teacher, on why before reopening schools, NYC needs time and resources to get it right.


Bobson Wong is a math teacher at a NYC public high school and author of "The Math Teacher's Toolbox."   Here is what he wrote after I asked him how he would design a school reopening plan for NYC.  If others would like to offer their school reopening ideas to this blog, please send them to info@classsizematters.org. - LH

"I would focus on improving remote learning for everyone. School buildings should be thought of as places where students can come to do their work if they're unable or unwilling to work from home. They'd receive a place to work, technology and Internet access if necessary, and help in using it. If necessary, they could receive in-person help with content from teachers (think of it as tutoring). 

Teachers could rotate providing support. Most students and staff could then stay home, where we could focus on improving the remote learning experience for everyone. Thinking of school buildings as support centers would also enable schools to occasionally bring small groups of students into the building for specific reasons (e.g. invite seniors in so guidance counselors could help them with college applications, or inviting students in crisis to receive emotional support). 

Thinking of school buildings as support centers is also compatible with other ideas, such as organizing outdoor learning experiences. They are not mutually exclusive. Focusing on providing support for remote learning is the simplest plan right now, given the limited resources that schools have available. Most of the hybrid schedules I've seen have left everyone - students, parents, and school staff - confused and exhausted. 

Some people argue that children, especially younger ones, don't transmit the virus and can return to schools safely. That may be true. We could have spent the last six months coming up with a workable plan in which younger students could have been invited back to school buildings. 

We could have pressured legislators to increase resources to schools so that we could provide adequate academic and social-emotional and support for everyone. Unfortunately, we've squandered the last six months doing nothing. 

The city has mismanaged the reopening of school buildings. Every teacher I know, myself included, quickly recognized the many gaps and flaws in the city's plans. We know how to organize complicated tasks, but to my knowledge K-12 educators were not part of the planning process, so our expertise has been wasted. 

Instead, as is often the case, teachers are left filling in the gaps. In this environment, pushing to reopen school buildings right now is simply irresponsible. The city needs time and resources to get it right. Until then, we should focus on improving remote learning, not on tweaking a flawed plan."

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