"Just Let The Teachers Teach!"

"Just let the teachers teach!" is a comment I received after posting on Facebook that the Blackboard site of Fairfax County Public Schools is unreachable at the moment. Well, it has been for more than three hours now. Right now, we see opinions like "COVID-19 Exposes Significant Gaps in our Education System" by Javaid Siddiqi in Morning Consult and "Dear School Districts, It’s Not the Access" by Jacalyn. These articles are useful as both remind us of the various challenges our children face at home while they struggle to continue their learning. The fact that schools are also having difficulty delivering lessons and even schedules to students is another major problem on the other side of the equation. One significant gap in education is that schools are not prepared for continuity in learning in a case like the COVID-19 pandemic. The first important point in any continuity plan is how to maintain communication. 

Hopefully, Fairfax county and other school districts will figure out what is necessary to maintain a robust platform for distance learning. But that is just the first step. The articles from Javaid and Jacalyn remind us that there are equally difficult challenges on the students' side. Although the comment I got, "Just let the teachers teach" may sound irrelevant, it actually opens my eyes to what it really means to consider our teachers as professionals. Teachers, as professionals, know their students. Those who work with curriculum materials behind a desk do not. 

At Georgetown University, we are likewise closed. We have continued our instruction and in my case, have even given an exam. My students did very well, by the way. With this new environment, one thing was very clear at the very beginning. It was not the same as what I originally planned for the classroom. I could not crack a joke, for example, since with Zoom I could not really scan through a hundred faces in an instant. Feedback was the one thing that was hard to get online. That is why to get any distance learning correctly, we must try hard to see things from a student's perspective. In this regard, only a teacher who knows his or her students can do this, not someone in the curriculum office.

For instructors, Virginia Gewin at Nature provides pointers in "Five tips for moving teaching online as COVID-19 takes hold". 

Above copied from
"Five tips for moving teaching online as COVID-19 takes hold"

Here are the five tips:

  • Don’t convert your entire lecture to video.
  • Don’t rely on live video.
  • Invite student engagement and feedback.
  • Check in with students often.
  • Identify and support struggling students.

I think all of these steps consider the student. It is the most important part. Simply letting the teachers teach is a step in the right direction. Teachers, as professionals, can connect to their students if we let them teach.