Dear Adult Leaders: Don’t Just Try to Copy-and-Paste In-Person Instruction to Online Learning

Margarida Celestino (Photo courtesy of Margarida Celestino)

This piece is part of “Dear Adult Leaders: Listen to Youth,” a four-week series produced in collaboration with America’s Promise Alliance to elevate student voices in the national conversation as schools and districts navigate how to educate our country’s youth in a global pandemic. In this series, students write open letters to adult leaders and policymakers about their experiences and how, from their perspectives, the American education system should adapt. Read all the pieces in this series as they are published here. Read our other coverage of issues affecting young people here. This letter focuses on the issue of providing meaningful learning in a COVID-19 environment.

To teachers across America,

We can all agree that remote learning is not for everyone. Under normal circumstances, teachers already barely had the time and resources to cater to the needs of every student. And now with the added stress of technical difficulties, from weak internet connections to broken mics, and long hours of staring at a screen, learning has become a tedious task for all.

To promote meaningful learning during COVID-19, teachers should not try to replicate in-person instruction online. In my experience, the way to promote meaningful learning is to adapt instruction in a way that recognizes the unique circumstances that we’re in.

When schools locked down and we had to transition to remote learning, my chemistry teacher knew that her class was one of the most challenging ones in our grade. Because she understood the pressure that students were living under, she did not attempt to make her class any harder. She minimized written assignments and made the work more engaging by giving us a variety of topics that would interest us weekly. She was also able to incorporate current events, such as the pandemic and how it was affecting minority groups.

Just through those simple measures, she not only saved so much time for herself from grading papers, but she also helped students enjoy the class while learning at their own pace. She gave us options by allowing us to choose topics that caught our attention. Through diversifying the work, she motivated us to do the work as she made it more accessible to students without needing to be in an actual chemistry classroom.

Now more than ever, communication is key. Although it is unrealistic for teachers to know the struggles of every student, building a relationship and bond with students will help teachers know how to format their classes to ensure that their students are succeeding and learning. When teachers connect students to the coursework, students really retain knowledge, rather than just turning in assignments for the sake of checking an item off their to-do lists.

Because students are not within the four walls of a classroom with a teacher at the front of it, it is more challenging for students to experience meaningful learning. Being stuck at home, often in my bedroom, during classes is not the easiest thing to do especially because I have little siblings who are also adapting. Teachers might think that being at home might mean more time for students to do work, but that is not a common reality for many students, as this pandemic has forced many to take on more responsibilities.

Although teachers no longer have full control over their classrooms, they still make the biggest contribution to each student’s learning experience. By clearly communicating with students, adjusting the pace of instruction and incorporating current events, teachers can make remote learning accessible and meaningful for all students.

Thank you,

Margarida Celestino, 18
Casco Bay High School
Portland, Maine

This series highlighting the perspectives of American youth is in part sponsored by Pure Edge, Inc., a foundation that equips educators and learners with strategies for combating stress and developing social, emotional and academic competencies.

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