April 17, 2020

Educators for Excellence-Boston Educators Speak Out on Distance Learning in Virtual Town Hall with State, City Leaders

April 17 (Boston) — Members of Educators for Excellence-Boston (E4E-Boston), a teacher-led organization, hosted a virtual town hall titled TEACH-IN: Equity and Excellence During and After COVID-19. The event was attended by over 40 people, including Chair of the Massachusetts Joint Education Committee Sen. Jason Lewis, and Boston City Councilors Kenzie Bok, Andrea Campbell and Michelle Wu.

In framing the event, E4E-Boston Executive Director Sarah Iddrissu shared that, “Nine out of 10 students worldwide are out of school, and we know learning loss will be a huge reality for our students whenever we return. In this time of uncertainty we believe educators should be on the frontline of solutions to ensure our most marginalized and vulnerable students are getting the education they deserve.” She then moderated a panel discussion with a group of five Boston Public School educators:

Caroline Ballou, Educator at East Boston High
Katie Caster, Educator at Oliver Hazard Perry School
Daniela Morin, Educator at Eliot School
Joellen Persad, Educator at Madison Park High School
Francis Pina, Educator at Charlestown High School

The panel kicked off with E4E-Boston member Joellen Persad, Science Teacher at Madison Park High School addressing the serious topic of student mental health during the pandemic, saying, “There is a collective grief going on right now, but I think about how my kids do not have the coping skills I have as an adult. Every week my co-teacher and I send out a survey on how our students are doing and we are finding that they’re so unclear about what is happening with school. ‘When are we coming back? What is happening with grades?’ Yes, they’re resilient, but the unknown and lack of answers is what’s causing anxiety.”

Also included in the conversation were the severe disparities in access to learning that exist in the new distance-learning reality. “There is an opportunity to create a diversity of access points for different learners,” said E4E-Boston member Katie Caster, Teacher at the Oliver Hazard Perry School, when asked how to increase access. “I’m trying to stretch myself to think beyond the screen — passion projects, hands-on projects at home, self-guided curriculum. I’m trying to think more broadly about what remote learning really means.”

On the looming question of how to reopen schools in a way that is safe and minimizes learning loss, E4E-Boston educators had a few key proposals that they urged the decision-makers in the audience to consider. “Our students can pick up the concepts if they know how to think, so we need to do work to keep up conceptual thinking. I think we need to do something with our students over the summer to get them the supports they need and then stay on as their teachers when they move on to the next grade level so that we can hit the ground running in the fall,” said E4E-Boston member Francis Pina, Math Teacher at Charlestown High School, adding, “We cannot just go back to the way we were before.”

“I appreciate the teachers talking about some of the creative things that we could do for families, not looking at everything we’re lacking, but how to look at what we could be doing going forward,” said Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell during open question time. “This is an opportunity for us to do something different. I don’t want to go back to the ‘normal.’ We need to create and envision a new normal, I’m hearing that quite a bit, and this conversation informs what we can do in the education space.”

E4E-Boston closed the event by pledging to continue elevating educator voices on how well we are meeting students’ and teachers’ needs throughout this crisis. A link to a recording of the full event can be found at the following links: Part 1 of Event | Part 2 of Event


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Educators for Excellence-Boston Educators Speak Out on Distance Learning in Virtual Town Hall with State, City Leaders