Secret Diary of a Teacher: Online learning might have a more substantial role in our futures

Secret Diary of a Teacher: Online learning might have a more substantial role in our futures

I’m drawn to poetry these days and increasingly to Yeats. 

In The Second Coming he writes: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”

This is a very difficult time, a tragic time. We’ve grown used to listening to stories of national emergencies at a distance. 

Now, we’re realising our intense vulnerability. We’ve been shaken to our collective core. 

We’ve no centre anymore, at least not one we recognise. So, we must create it together, invent it from necessity. 

A centre characterised by small acts of kindness, texts and skype calls. A new kind of community. A second coming.

It’s already happening. Flights are grounded. We now meet online, and we may very well organise conferences this way in future. 

Unintentionally, we’re making significant strides in climate action. Air pollution is clearing; the earth is being given time to breathe and repair itself. 

We’re shopping less. People are looking after each other. Our forced activities today are set to become habits tomorrow.

Students who’ve been marching for months, asking older generations to listen, are now, strangely, achieving some of their targets. 

Now, they’re asked to listen, to have the same compassion they recently espoused on the steps of the Dáil on behalf of the planet. 

The vast majority are doing so. Any minority we see ignoring guidelines need to be called out on it. But we also need to remember the role of the parents here. 

Grown-ups need to be in charge, now more than ever. If the parent isn’t parenting, we need to step in.

Distance learning is another development borne of necessity. 

Many more schools will now develop their online methods. I’ve already seen reports of teachers using Instagram and zoom. 

I’m not quite camera-ready. I’m still in the transitioning, staying in my tracksuit/pyjama pants phase. But I’m open to it.

Online learning might have a more substantial role in our futures. Just like it might become more common to work from home. 

Certainly, at third level. Might this relieve pressure on housing near cities? Might we re-populate rural areas? 

It’s not unthinkable that maybe one or two days a week, at least our older students, might work remotely. 

Clearly, it would benefit the more introverted child, tired of being distracted in class. It might also allow teens better sleep patterns. 

I don’t say this flippantly; I see some students genuinely, physically struggling with early mornings and it affects wellbeing. 

This surge in technology might indirectly re-connect us with nature, with our own natural biological patterns and rural environments.

But there are negatives to remote learning. Some homes are far more remote than others. Some homes are downright isolating. These next few months are going to be truly awful for some. Home’s not always where the heart is. 

Sometimes, the child relies on school to escape violence and neglect. There are more calls to child services these days; it’s no wonder.

Far more homes than not will have issues around time and availability. Education, at a young age particularly, is more about socialisation and emotion than it is about facts and figures. 

Kids need present, empathetic adults to guide them. They’re simply not available in every child’s home. 

So, whilst one student may thrive,  another may wilt and regress. It’s not that this child’s parent doesn’t care. They may not have the financial or academic means to help.

During this time, privilege will become even more powerful. In this regard, this virus is not a leveller.

The Constitution states that the family is the primary source of education. 

I’ve always struggled with this. Simply put, families are not always capable of educating. This crisis will exacerbate this. 

When the exams go ahead, they will be even less equal than before.

So, members of the community need to get involved now. We need to create this new centre. As much as we can manage.

Please ask your child to keep an eye out for their friends. 

Ask them to check in to discuss the work they’re receiving. Is Michael doing it too? If you know of a difficult family situation, weigh in. 

A maximum of three hours work is plenty for most. No house should be trying to replicate the school day. 

Schools will have to address this closure when we return so this time is not about covering new ground; it’s a time for creativity, reflection and consolidation.

Parents lucky enough to have the time to get involved with home-schooling will get to know their child more. 

Two friends have already shared notes with me from their kids, ‘I hate you mum’ being the general tone. Clearly, these won’t be preserved in a shoebox, but they’ll stay in our psyche. 

Eventually, they’ll enrich our relationships.

My job has been quartered. I’m still assigning and grading work, but I’ve no emotional and social issues to navigate, poor behaviour to manage. 

But there are too many kids not responding to my updates, messages and assignments. It worries me.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.

We know that now. All that matters is what we do next.

  • If you have a question for Secret Teacher, please email  features@examiner.ie

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