Monday, August 31, 2020
The Eleventh Hour
Every teacher has a story like it. A student turns in a paper appallingly late, but then checks back in less than twenty-four hours to find out why the grade hasn’t been posted yet. Or a high school senior has requested a college recommendation at the eleventh hour but comes around almost immediately to check if it has been sent. For those, and others like them, the following statement is particularly relevant.
Not to be outdone by the Governor’s eleventh hour press conference on the reopening of schools, the State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon stepped up to turn in an appallingly late plan on distance learning. This last-minute move would essentially force schools to rip up the plans they have put in place.
Teachers have been working throughout the summer on the best ways to implement distance learning. School systems have been devising their overall plans and have submitted them to the state by the agreed upon deadline. In some counties students will start today. In others teachers are in meetings to prepare for the beginning of instruction. No one feels that distance learning is the ideal but the safety of our communities depends on it. Our schools are doing the best they possibly can under extremely difficult circumstances.
What the State Superintendent of Schools should have contemplated on the eve of the 2020-21 school year was the value of giving an inspirational pep talk to those around the state who are poised to undertake new and unprecedented challenges. Instead she used the power of her position to provide an unwarranted slap in the face. Any good teacher knows this is not how you get the best out of your students.
According to the Superintendent, students will be required to spend an additional hour each day sitting in front of a computer screen. This is educationally counterproductive and is just plain bad for young people. Students are not robots. Teaching is not content delivery. Teachers are working to establish relationships that will set the stage for students to engage and persist in learning activites. Force feeding is disrespectful of that teacher-student relationship.
Dictating a plan at the last minute is not respectful of the relationship that the State Superintendent should be working to foster with state school systems. Perhaps Governor Hogan and Dr. Salmon are working under a different sort of management principle.
The Maryland State Education Association has created a petition to protest the last minute changes. You can find it here. From the petition:
Just days after Governor Hogan held a press conference throwing school systems under the bus and undercutting the work of educators, now State Superintendent Karen Salmon is recklessly attempting to do more of the same. At the State Board meeting this Tuesday, September 1, Superintendent Salmon will propose that all school systems must revamp their schedules to hit new, arbitrary targets for synchronous and asynchronous learning by September 28. If she has her way, then—after months of silence and zero guidance on schedules from the State Board—in just a few weeks systems, schools, and families across the state will need to rip up the schedules and plans they’ve spent months developing to meet these new targets.
Key words here are “after months of silence and zero guidance from the State Board.” School systems from around the state have been looking for guidance for months and received none. It does them no good at all for the State Superintendent to show up with a long overdue assignment and say, “Ta da!” This is not leadership and does not promote any kind of partnership, either. And, in the end, it’s bad for students.
You can take a look at the State Superintendent’s plan here. You can sign the MSEA petition here. You can support schools, teachers, and students by rejecting a last-minute, educationally unsound approach to distance learning.
You’ll be giving a vote of confidence to the work our teachers have been doing all summer long to get ready for their kids. Our kids.