Opinion | I’m a Michigan educator. Here's why online learning should 'count'

Carrie Roth

Carrie Roth is an educator and parent in Keego Harbor

I am both a parent and an educator in the West Bloomfield School District. So, I have more than one perspective on the Michigan Department of Education’s statement that online learning necessitated by the novel coronavirus won’t count toward instructional requirements mandated by the state. 

State superintendent Michael Rice says state law leaves the department with no options but the West Bloomfield model of cloud-based learning neds to be credited toward the official days of school.  This school district’s strong model, which has been constantly evolving under our incredible leadership, is highly engaging, content rich and has provided equitable access for all of our students. In my 18 years as an educator, I have never seen my colleagues work so hard. In such dire circumstances and in such a short time, they’ve been innovative in how instruction is delivered.  

Rest assured, we are educating and teaching during this time.  We are professionals and masters of our craft. We weren’t asked to address a crisis, but from the bus drivers to the superintendent, we did.. We will soldier on, despite the fact that the problems change by the hour.  Why? Because we care about the well-being and the education of our students. 

At a meeting last Wednesday, we suspended our agenda to figure out how to get ahead of the slight possibility that our schools might close.  With 25 district leaders, we developed a succinct plan and agenda for how we would prepare teachers and students for the possibility of online learning.  With one day’s notice, our entire district worked tirelessly to prepare our students for weeks of home-schooling. As a parent, I received engaging, well-developed content, a stack of perfectly selected books and enough coursework for my 7-year-old to fully engage.  

What impressed me most was how prepared my own kids were to engage themselves learning from home.  I could hear their teachers’ voices as they each took turns running our morning meeting. They talked about strategies their teacher taught them when we engaged in writing and reading.  I have been able to use their teacher’s words when instructing, because of the thought and care put into lesson plans.

Each time my daughters have interacted with their teachers, either over Zoom or through videos posted on Google classroom they’ve beamed and become more driven to complete their work excellently.

We are educators and we are doing what we do best, educating.  

We have our most captive audiences right now, while everyone is at home, and in need of connection.  Who better to alleviate that than a teacher? Let us capitalize during the quarantine and stress to educate and give students some routine.  

When our students return to school, whenever that may be, they should be prepared and ready for success.  After all, don’t forget that their academic growth depends on us.

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Pauline Walker
Tue, 03/24/2020 - 9:08am

Online learning? Zoom? Google Classroom? Many students throughout Michigan do not have access to these. Any proposal for making school work count during the closing of the schools must also provide plans for addressing the needs of students without access to technology, as well as the needs of our special education population. I, too, am an educator, as well as a state-trained special education mediator. The State of Michigan must provide free and appropriate education to all its students, not just to those blessed with the privilege of having access to online learning tools.

abe bubush
Tue, 03/24/2020 - 2:16pm

In a properly funded educational world, yes, but try to remember what schools are like outside your bubble in the rest of Michigan.

Tue, 03/24/2020 - 10:43pm

No, the days shouldn't count. They should be forgiven, as we would for snow days. In West Bloomfield, it's safe to say that all kids can access the online education that teachers are working very hard to deliver. But in most districts, while teachers are working just as hard or harder, the kids' ability to access is much more spotty. If we count these days, that puts the burden on those districts to show their kids are accessing instruction when many of them are just not able to do so. Far better to forgive.

Now, that doesn't mean the work can't count. Educators can certainly count work for kids who can access it while excusing kids who cannot. But for attendance purposes, Michigan should forgive the days.

Wed, 03/25/2020 - 12:35pm

Let me add my voice to the others who commented on this story. In rural areas in the northern Lower Peninsula and the UP, there are many families who do not have adequate internet access to support online learning. Our teachers and other staff are working extremely hard to provide education to all of our students, but the playing field is by no means level. Even if there is good internet access, not all families have enough devices to go around if mom and dad are trying to work remotely at the same time. Kudos to all those out there who are working so hard to make sure students are fed and educated as best they can be, but let's not penalize all those kids who are handicapped by circumstances beyond their (or the school districts') control.

Fri, 03/27/2020 - 10:29am

I believe it should count, mail order does. This is of no fault of the childrens, this is a NATIONAL PANDEMIC! THE GOVERNLR NEEDS TO LOOK INTO TO THIS, AND STOP USING HER POLITICAL PARTISANSHJP ON THE MICHIGAN CITIZENS.
She claimed the first day that the Presjdent dais we were on our own!( She hadn't filed for FEREDAL AID! YOU DON'T GET HELP BY JUST RAISING YOUR HAND!

Gerry Niedermaier
Sun, 03/29/2020 - 11:40am

The problem with our education systems are those intellectualizing educators with their turf wars, condescending attitudes toward teachers, parents and staff and their arrogance. My uncle was a Superintendent with a couple of Michigan school districts, and I swear to God, if you asked him a simple education question it took him forever to spit out an answer, but only after striking his “Superintendents” pose. A running joke in the education field was PhD stands for “Piled high and Deep.” LOL. So, there are very few who are approachable. The only exemption was Wallace “Wally” Cameron, one of the finest persons you would ever meet and a pillar of the Gladstone community. He was totally a kid person as was his wife Ruth who taught in the Gladstone school system. They ran Camp Batawagama for years during their summer vacation and they were great in that setting too. The issues with kids out of school from COVID19 are complex. We all know this and for this school year, let's not do the typical "analysis paralysis" approach. Let's simplify Policies and Procedures for this year, and perhaps next year, and then hopefully we can get back to the usual school routines. These P&Ps will be in place in the event there is another national emergency and can be revised as we go along. So, let's pretend: the teacher submits the current student grades in their respective classes as the final grade, period. Parents know what their kids’ grades are, so there are no surprises there. If they don’t, then that’s on them as well. Kids with failing grades won't improve at this late time and will just have to have to bite the bullet. No surprises to parents here either. Illnesses and other extenuating circumstances will be dealt with by the District on an individual basis. All faculty, custodians, bus drivers, food service workers get paid same as usual per contracts. The $$$ is there. Same for colleges. They can loosen their rules due to the circumstances and enroll these high school seniors and give them a chance. In fact, some visionary states are stopping all admission applications to attend their colleges and universities. If you want to go, you’re in plain and simple. It’s up to you as always, to make the grade to stay enrolled. Administrators at the State and local levels, let's not wail, flail your arms, run around wringing your hands as if Genghis Kahn and his hoards were riding in.....it's only as hard as you choose to make it. Brush analysis paralysis aside, step up to the plate and press the Governor to make this declaration. SCHOOLS OUT FOR THE SUMMER!!!!!