Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Virtual reality: Making the most of remote learning

School starts tomorrow, and Max will once again be seated at our dining room table and staring at his iPad. He is doing virtual schooling for the indefinite future. Every family has to make the choice that feels right to them, and that's what felt right to us even if we are still grappling with the realities of what it will mean. 

For Max, school has always been his social life, and he is one very social person. I mourn the loss of in-person interaction with his peers. Max is also disappointed not to return to school, but at the same time understands. He'll get to do more mingling with friends in after-school clubs (they'll all be virtual).  I know he'll get into the spirit of Zoom-ing, and he'll get to do more mingling in after-school clubs (they'll all be virtual). Sabrina will also be learning at home. Ben is going to an outdoors-only preschool for a couple of months. 

This year, Max will be in a program called Work Experience Cluster (WEC). In ordinary times, it would have enabled him to sample work opportunities in the community. Instead, he will be doing Zooms to learn related lessons and life skills.  

Yesterday, I spoke with Max's new teacher. Last spring, all students in the school were on Zoom, creating a communal experience that truly worked for Max. This year, four students in his class will be doing virtual learning and six will physically be in school, a hybrid experience that will have to work itself out. (The school day will go from 8:45 am. to 12:45 p.m., no lunch break). Students on Zoom will not be able to see the students sitting in the class for privacy reasons, the school has decided, although they will see the other students on Zoom.

As with everything involved with raising a child with disabilities, you have to make your child's needs known. I'd mentioned to the principal at some point that it was important for Max to have a really dynamic teacher, as he did last year—it was so important for Zoom-ing. I mentioned to the teacher that Max really likes to engage with other people and it's equally important for him to be engaged, and she reassured me that she would speak to him and make sure his voice was heard. She noted that he could also type comments, and I'm sure he's going to take her up on that. I so feel for her and other teachers, who already had a lot to juggle even before the pandemic began. 

I asked if there had been any discussion about continuing work experiences virtually, and she yet hadn't heard about that end of things. Obviously, some businesses right now are just struggling to stay afloat. But there could be some that would be willing to do virtual presentations.  There might be employees working from home who could do tutorials—say, show students how they use a shredder. Perhaps an employee at a supermarket could do some sort of presentation and virtual shopping in which students would add up purchases.

Of course, right now the focus is on getting the school year off to a safe (and sane!) start. But with some creative vision and planning, virtual employment opportunities could definitely happen. I hung up the phone and emailed the principal and vice principal some thoughts. I noted that the school had done an admirable job transitioning to virtual programming last spring, and I had faith that virtual WEC experiences could happen through a meeting of the minds. Happily, he responded that the school has been thinking of ways to incorporate similar ideas into the school day, and once things had settled down they planned to put plans into place. That was reassuring to hear, and I mentioned that other parents would find it reassuring to know as well. The more information we have, the better.  

A year ago, if you had told me that my children would be doing virtual schooling, my head would have exploded. It often still explodes, although for different reasons, but now I know that virtual schooling can work. Not for every single child, and not all of the time. Yet it's been a good thing for Max. And it could be a good thing for his future in the work world, too. 

1 comment:

  1. Best wishes to Max and your family with virtual schooling this year!


Thanks for sharing!

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