Dean Kloss is a first-year teacher at Marcellus Central Schools.
By Dean Kloss | Special Syracuse.com
As a teacher, being at home, away from my classroom for almost two months now, I thought this unusual period could be an opportunity to reconsider everything that schools are doing today. But then I heard Governor Andrew Cuomo suggest on Tuesday that a “school in person”, with all the technology available, might no longer be necessary, and I wondered if we were not studying much at all. Education is more than just efficiency, and I’m not sure Cuomo, as strong a leader as he has been in recent weeks, is clearly thinking about everything that schools do that cannot be duplicated on a screen.
Think of the things we have heard that are missing in the lives of children during the closure of their schools. Certainly, our main mission is to instruct, but all the Zoom and Google Docs meetings that are provided really do not replace a teacher alongside a student that they have come to know well throughout their time together, so the the way they teach this child, as compared to the one next to them, is what they need. Distance education, even one that is well planned and supported, cannot be compared. Many caregivers of school age discover how difficult it is to manage the education of three or four children at a time and, of course, it is. It may be good to remember that teachers do this for 15 to 25 students at a time, 180 days a year.
Regularly, during this stay at home, we heard about all the non-educational aspects of school that are missed: children being with their friends, personal relationships with adults in non-educational relationships, special events which mark milestones in the school year, meals for families who depend on the school to help the nutrition of their children, face-to-face art education provided by music and art teachers, diplomas the end of the year. Governor Cuomo, no technology can deliver these things in the same way as being together.
During this period of school closings due to fear of the coronavirus, I think many people have been fortunate enough to consider at least some of the roles that school plays in our society and in the lives of children. As a teacher, I know that we play many non-academic roles, but I think that people outside of schools had to face the complications that our closure has caused in people’s lives to begin to realize all that we let’s do. It is unfortunate that, although our success is mainly measured by the results of the ELA and mathematics tests, the most crucial role that we play can be as much social as academic. I have often found it disturbing that, although there are state standards to which I am expected to faithfully direct my instructions, the most important things I do with young children in my room may have little to do with those or anything that can be quantified. .
Having had the privilege of doing this work for 32 years, almost all of the teachers I know are people who come to work every day to try to do good in the world. A good teacher can influence the attitude of his pupils towards school for years with what they do for only 10 months with them. Part of it teaches them reading and writing, math and the history and science of their world, but there are many more, as many are discovering while we are closed. The most precious part of education and schools is not available at long distance, it must be experienced in person.
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