As We Shift to Remote Learning in These Uncertain Times, Let’s Not Forget the Whole Child
- By Ronald Chaluisán Batlle
whose social and emotional needs are not being met do not learn
effectively. The Aspen Institute National Commission on Social,
Emotional and Academic Development states in the conclusion of its
final report, "Opportunities create responsibilities. And we are
all responsible — all of us who interact with students and all of
us who care about students — for an approach to learning that
touches and challenges the whole child."
people worry when routines are interrupted. They worry when their
world stops making sense. They worry when adults around them are
worried. According to mental health professionals, young people
facing stressful situations should maintain regular routines; talk,
listen and express themselves; connect with others; and regularly
eat, sleep and take breaks.
children are in school, this structure is largely in place. When
schools close, the child’s world can crumble.
this new reality, assignments should be designed to decrease
students’ stress levels, not increase them. Educators should help
students and their families establish new routines to maximize
learning. They should encourage, not create barriers to,
conversations between siblings as well as between children and
parents and other family members. Distance
should not only be used to get content and assignments to students
but to connect students with each other in meaningful ways.
learning is defined as a method of study where teachers and students
use the Internet, e-mail, and mail to have classes. The Association
for Talent Development tells us that e-learning is "asynchronous,
structured, self-paced learning that is delivered electronically."
Effective use of these methods requires students to have easy access
to computers and stable internet connections. Students learn better
when the experience is personalized and interactive, with sufficient
few years, school districts have made much progress integrating e-
and distance learning strategies into their array of teaching
methods. However, some schools, especially elementary and middle
schools, do not yet have the infrastructure in place to offer these
methods widely. Even more challenging are districts where a good, if
not substantial, number of families do not have computers or
consistent broadband access in their homes.
term, school districts will need to think creatively about how they
incorporate e- and distance learning into their overall plans. They
will need to ensure multiple methods for families to access content
as well as various mechanisms for communication. Short term, they
will need to find pragmatic ways to quickly broaden access to
computers and provide support services for students to use them, with
the support of their families.
districts must also consider the impact that interruptions to
students' lives have on their social and emotional well-being.
ask district leaders and educators not to create assignments as if
they were going to be taught in the classroom. I encourage them to
imagine the home as a parallel and equally important learning
environment to the school. I propose that they create assignments
that leverage the most valuable resources available in homes: the
student's family, their history and their practices and beliefs. I
urge them to define the unit of focus, not as the individual student,
but as the members of the student's family as defined by the student.
I ask that they not expect the student to sit independently at a
desk, chair or computer for long periods. I challenge them to
identify compelling and culturally relevant questions that immerse
students in the content and skills on which they will be assessed
while allowing families to construct answers by reading, speaking,
and exploring together in their homes.
I believe that
our educators can meet the challenges laid out above, activating the
social and emotional supports necessary for robust learning in
uncertain times. I trust that they can imagine and construct
assignments that support family interactions rather than interrupt
them. I believe that educators can create tasks that promote and
support the "culture" of learning that teachers strive to
achieve in their classrooms.
we should not ask families to replicate the classroom setting in
their home. I believe assignments can be designed to meet the needs
of the whole child, nurturing a learning culture in the home in which
family members observe, question, and search for answers together. A
culture in which they are asked to present what they see and think to
each other and document it for credit. A culture in which they invite
each other to critique each other’s findings and learn together.