eSN: Seems obvious now, but not necessarily a year ago!
TMC: I think that’s been probably the biggest thing that we’ve had occur as far as opening up the whole new world in that manner. And I think parents have become more comfortable with that as well. We continue to have some parents that would prefer to meet face to face. And, we do want to be able to have them coming to the schools, but the reality is we can’t always socially distance appropriately. So we may end up putting a representative and the special education teacher in a room with the parent. And then the general education teacher may be in another part of the school and a related service provider may be in another. So we’re doing sort of mini pod-type activities with IEP meetings.
eSN: So you’re finding that this set-up is better for teachers as well?
TMC: I feel like we are. I’ll tell you that our teachers feel comfortable now. The old “note home” is no longer the old “note home.” It’s more like, “Can you jump on to Google for a minute and let’s Google Meet, and let’s talk about some of the issues that we’re seeing that are going on in the classroom?”
Another big plus is that school-to-home transition. We know how education can be sometimes, where it’s like, “Ah, it’s the end of the day, I’ll see you tomorrow.” What I find now, particularly with preschool students, is that teachers are now able to really talk to the parents about what’s going on in the home. Some of them will jump on at 3:30 in the afternoon if a parent has a question about a developmental level—say a student’s non-verbal, but they’re using, you know, pick symbols—and they want to know how they can help their child with a chore around the house or with toileting needs. And the teacher can get on and say, “You know, this is how we do it in school. This is how you can transition at home.” So that’s been a huge benefit of just trying to think differently and trying to use technology differently.
eSN: So the tech is really an enhancer not any sort of replacement.
TMC: What we’ve learned through the pandemic is you can’t replace a teacher in a classroom and being in a classroom with other students. There’s always been that idea from some to push the idea that, with a computer in hand, a kid could learn anywhere. What we found through the pandemic is that ideally, we want kids in schools and we want kids interacting, and we want technology to be a product that just helps them access and to learn, but not to be the product.
Sitting in front of a computer, doing computerized instruction all day is not going to give the children the social interaction they need. So while technology is phenomenal, and while it is a game changer, it is that idea of the classroom and the teacher and the students together interacting in small groups is more important than ever. There’s no replacement for it.
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