In regards to the Hawaii State Teachers Association vowing to fight in court the state’s recent announcement that public schools may start in person classes next month, I say, shame on the teachers’ union.
As a mother of three public school children who are attempting distance learning, I think I speak for the majority of parents who will tell you, this is not working! Virtual learning is not engaging, effective and feels like a waste of time. Children sit in front of computer screens for hours with glitchy internet service, and sometimes they are supposed to sit and work on assignments with their camera on so the teacher can virtually babysit them.
My 11th-grade son told me, “It’s a lot of work, but I don’t learn anything.” Our children miss their peers, they love their teachers. They want to be back in the classroom. These are difficult times, but our state needs to work hard to come up with creative solutions of how we can help our keiki. The teachers’ union needs to stop its obstructionist ways, and even petition the state for millions of dollars of unused federal CARES Act funding to buy masks and sanitizer, and give our teachers hazard pay. Anything to restart school.
My question to the teachers: How will it be when you go back to in-person learning and the children have been out of school for 18 months? Most of them will be below grade level. After that long time out of school, many won’t want to go back.
Teachers are currently facing an impossible task of catching students up who’ve had six months without school. Add another year to that and it will make their already-difficult and underpaid job insurmountable. It will widen the inequality between students with educated or academically skilled parents at home, and students with parents for whom English is a second language or whose parents have to work all day.
Thousands of private school students across the state have resumed school safely. Do we continue to allow the wealthy and privileged in our society to have such a huge advantage, continue to widen the gap between the haves and have-nots because our public schools will not step up and educate our children?
School settings with proper procedures in place, including social distancing and mask wearing, are a relatively low-risk environment. Compare that to the huge risk we are facing from teen suicide because our youth are isolated, lonely, without purpose, and without caring teachers and coaches who are involved in their lives.
It will be too late when the numbers come in to go back and say we wished we could have prevented more teen suicide. Those numbers will eclipse the damage COVID-19 could do if our youth do not resume school as soon as possible. There will be an increase in teen pregnancy, and substance abuse by teens.
Among elementary-aged keiki, there has already been documented a rise in child abuse and lack of adequate nutrition. Our keiki are struggling staying home all day: some are alone without supervision, others are in crowded households where they couldn’t concentrate on school work if they wanted to.
Please teachers, do your job and make the future better for our children. There is no way to make up for lost time.
Distance learning is not effective, and the losses from this misguided method will be to the long-term detriment of our whole island community.
Rebecca Hill, who lives in Kihei, Maui, is the mother of four children and has a master’s degree in biology.