ETFO’s position on in-person learning remains unchanged. The union firmly believes that the daily, in-person model of instruction and support best meets the educational, developmental and social needs of students, provides the best experience for support, and is the most equitable learning model for all students. ETFO’s expectation is that elementary virtual learning in any capacity, including through hybrid models of instruction, will end once the pandemic ends.
As a teacher of the hybrid synchronous in class and online instructional model, I’ve been vexed by the real possibility that this model will be sustained in Ontario’s public education system. As a person who studied education policy implementation, I have considered how this model would be implemented. I solely believe that implementing this model, would be detrimental to students and their families.
As a teacher with experience teaching in the Hybrid model, I’ve written a few blogs about the educational challenges faced by students, parents, and teachers. In this blog, I’ll consider the dark side of implementing this model beyond the months of the pandemic as it could become a set mode of instruction in Ontario.
Highlights of the Elementary School Hybrid Teaching Model:
- Less infrastructure is needed for online teaching so there will be less need for schools
- Less schools means less costs for heating/cooling, internet, cleaning, repairs etc
- Transportation costs would be reduced due to students learning from home, instead of requiring bussing
- Class sizes could grow as more physical space for students becomes available, while students move to online learning; this would mean more students online and more students in class
- Less staffing would be required as less onsite students would mean less onsite supports for students with behavioural and special education needs (i.e. as these needs and supports would be provided at home by families)
- Online learning via laptops would be less expensive than funding classrooms but cost savings may be neutralized by the technological and pedagogical needs of classroom teachers
- Instructional materials and consumables would have to be virtual so physical textbooks and other printed materials would not be required, consumables such as pencils and markers would be provided by home
- Physical education, art, and music equipment would not be required as all these topics would be taught online
- Closing down or consolidating community schools with fewer in class students could occur to safe infrastructure costs
Less Community Supports
- School clubs, trips, and other extra curricular activities would not be provided to online students as they participate in school from an online platform
- Social support programs such as Breakfast Clubs and social work would not be provided by schools as students would only do school from home, these supports would likely be downloaded to regional governments
- Newcomers to Canada would not receive the supports put in place by schools and these supports would be handled by regional governments instead
- Students with little knowledge of English/French would not be immersed in an English/French language setting and would not become fluent as quickly
- Special Education, students with special education needs could be taught from home instead of being integrated with their peers
- Schools, as community hubs, would be diluted as there would be fewer relationships developed with parents and students
- Downloading the monitoring of class work would be done by family members instead of the teachers and educational assistants who are trained for this purpose
- Administrators could recommend that students with high physical and behavioural needs move to online learning so schools do not have to deal with these challenges
Hybrid Hurts Relationships
- Online students would not have the opportunity to develop relationships with their teachers as they would not be in the same physical space as their teachers
- Teachers would have a harder time getting to know online students as they could not observe them working and interacting with other students
- Teachers would naturally focus on in class students who are directly in front of them and not online students who are only seen through a camera
- Assessment and feedback of student work would be challenging as teachers could not guarantee that work was done by the students
- Teachers would face challenges showing students how to do work, such as math, that is best taught and assessed in person
- Learning is built on developing relationships between teachers and students – online students would not get to know their teachers as well
Competing Agendas (Online vs In Class)
- Schools are run by schedules where periods are set for all subjects including physical education, art, and music
- With the hybrid model two sets of students would have to be accommodated for all subjects like online/in school gym, online/in school art, and online/in school music
- Result would mean having to provide subjects such as physical education to online students while in class students would be with their gym teacher making coordinating timetables difficult
- Two-tiered system – hybrid teaching would offer two levels of education in one class
- online learning would provide a watered-down version of school, with no social opportunities to interact with peers and teachers, with no physical education, no opportunities for being part of school clubs and all the other in person opportunities face to face school learning provides
- online students could become “invisible” participants in classrooms as they are not present and not there physically to get attention
- Flexible flipping back and forth opportunities could be offered to parents allowing students to go to and from in class/online learning , putting great stress on teachers to accommodate these students’ needs, which would be exacerbated by larger class sizes
- Not all students do well in an online setting as some students need to be face to face with teachers in order to attend to lessons and stay on task
As a teacher who has experienced teaching online and in the hybrid model, I know that I could not sustain another year of this work. My experience was especially trying as I teach students with special education needs. After teaching all day, trying to meet the needs of my online students, I was left with little energy to do anything else … and if you know me, I’m usually a high energy person.
In a real-life case, a teacher, providing hybrid instruction, was having behavioural challenges with a student. Administration suggested that the student be switched to online to prevent behaviour happening at school.
Due to decreased funding, schools do not have the resources to support all students, especially with behaviour and significant special education needs. Imagine, how this hybrid model could be used to download “problem” students to online learning from home. This would mean that students would not get the appropriate supports provided by professionals in order for them to be successful learners. Administrators could also suggest that students learn online to avoid expensive bussing transportation or physical care needs.
If education costs are put ahead of students’ needs, this can only end poorly for students with significant learning needs.
Speak out to stop the hybrid model from being implemented.
Deb Weston, PhD