FRAMINGHAM – Dear Elementary School Principals,
At the School Committee meeting on August 5, two elementary principals were invited to publicly share the reasons why they believe that teachers should be mandated to conduct their remote teaching from the school buildings.
However, the School Committee did not provide an equal opportunity for teachers to share their perspectives on this matter.
While principals participated in the meeting on video, with unlimited speaking time, teachers had to register to call in to the public comment period at the start of the meeting and had a maximum of three minutes to speak.
Additionally, principals had the opportunity to clarify their thoughts during a question period, engaging in dialogue with School Committee members immediately prior to the vote on the plan. Teachers were deliberately excluded from this conversation.
During their speeches, both elementary principals mentioned that teachers were underprepared in the spring and did not have the necessary materials and technology at home.
When we suddenly left school in the middle of March, we believed that we would be back in our classrooms in a few days.
Nobody anticipated that we would not return. Teachers only had one day around mid-May to go into the school and bring home curriculum materials.
This fall, we would like to be able to enter the school when needed to access any necessary items. However, many of the typical classroom materials, document cameras, and whiteboards, would be ineffective for remote learning.
Instead, we will utilize technology, such as virtual whiteboards and virtual manipulatives, to teach our lessons. The overwhelming experience of teachers is that the school internet is far less reliable than the internet in our homes, so being in the classroom would not give us any additional access to technology.
Both elementary principals stated that instruction from an empty classroom will be more successful and beneficial to students. However, we cannot compare the experience of the crisis teaching in the spring to our teaching this fall. It is clear that none of the problems with crisis instruction in the spring could have been solved by teachers conducting their lessons from the classroom. Teachers did not have adequate training or time to prepare for this new type of learning.
We were limited to reviewing concepts already taught earlier in the year offering enrichment activities. The district also provided unclear expectations for student participation. Families were told that the work was not mandatory, and that students would not receive any grades based on their participation.
This made it extremely difficult for teachers to hold students accountable for attending meetings and completing work. At the same time, teachers were asked to submit student engagement data on a weekly basis. Another barrier to effective instruction in the spring was the fact that students did not have access to adequate learning materials at home.
This fall, we hope that students will be provided with some basic supplies to help them practice their skills. We are eager to make remote teaching this Fall much more successful for students and families.
Both elementary principals seemed to be under the impression that, if we were in the school buildings, we would collaborate more with our colleagues. However, teachers reported that in the spring, they actually communicated with their colleagues more than ever! We had extremely productive meetings on Zoom and Google Meet, communicated through email and phone apps, and were eager to share resources online. The coaches were consistently impressed by our work ethic and our ability to collaborate virtually.
Collaboration does not need to take place inside a school building for it to be successful. Unfortunately, it is still not safe to meet in groups inside. Even with the utmost precautions, sitting at least 6 feet away and wearing masks, it would be extremely difficult to work productively. Having in-person meetings in the school buildings is an unnecessary risk.
It was also mentioned that teaching from school would benefit the co-teaching model. It would be needlessly unsafe for teachers to work together in the same room in person. It would be especially dangerous for some specialists, such as ESL and Special Education teachers, who work with multiple teachers each day. In the Fall, teachers will be able to effectively co-teach by leading Google Meet classes together, as well as pulling virtual small groups individually.
One of our other concerns about teaching solely from the classroom is the anticipated high rate of absences due to the strict “COVID-19 Employee Self-Certification” mandated by FPS, which will needlessly disrupt routines and learning for our students. A teacher with a cough cannot and should not report to their school building, and would need to call in sick. A substitute teacher would need to be found, and would need access to and knowledge of all virtual platforms used at school. If allowed to teach from home, this would not be a problem. Teacher absences would likely be reduced since many would not call out sick due to a cold, a cough, or many of the mild symptoms that could be COVID related.
All FPS teachers want what is best for students and families. Teaching on video from our classrooms as opposed to our homes will not change the remote learning experience for our students, but it could have serious consequences for educators. Moving forward, we implore building administration and central office to work cooperatively with the Framingham Teachers Association and to include teachers in the conversation, especially when our lives are on the line.
Antonella D’Eramo & Luz Ostrosky Barbieri Elementary FTA Building Representatives
Danielle Keinan & Kellie Spencer Brophy Elementary FTA Building Representatives
Kathleen Flaherty & Elaine Picard Dunning Elementary FTA Building Representatives
Ilana Wyner, Sara Machkowsky, & Eileen MacQueen Hemenway Elementary FTA Building Representatives
Kathryn Thomas, Ashley Deschenes, & Tina Miller King Elementary FTA Building Representatives
Diane Durfee & Heidi Schnabel McCarthy Elementary FTA Building Representatives
Heather Camarota Potter Road Elementary FTA Building Representative
Nancy Clougherty, Kelsey Duffy, Emily St. Pierre, & Nicole Nguyen-Le Woodrow Wilson Elementary FTA Building Representatives