Editor’s note: Following is a statement from the Hopkinton Teachers Association.
The Hopkinton school district’s reliance on livestreaming classes to students using remote learning plans is not effective, according to the Hopkinton Teachers Association.
“The district’s extensive use of livestreaming shortchanges both the students receiving in-person instruction and those viewing the class remotely,” said HTA president Becky Abate.
Abate noted that educators are still without a contract, and that the district has significantly changed working conditions without bargaining.
“Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions, and right now both of those are unsettled,” Abate said.
On Sept. 16 superintendent Carol Cavanaugh told educators to change their teaching strategies so as to include remote students with their in-person classes. Educators had less than 24 hours to meet this demand. The change was made with virtually no upgrades in technology and without any training or time to prepare. The district provided no clear communication about procedures, policies and expectations. Many teachers were not told how many students or in which classes they would be livestreaming and only knew after logging into the classroom computer platform used by the district.
Because of technology shortfalls, many students in remote settings could not hear or see what was taking place in the classroom.
Although the high school did offer other computers to make it easier for remote learners to hear and see what was happening in the classroom, many of those computers were not formatted correctly, and teachers could not even log into them. Although technology has been delivered to classrooms, it has yet to be set up for teachers to begin using with their students. With limited training which only took place this past Monday, many teachers are uncertain how to use these new devices.
Educators have heard from remote students that they feel very uncomfortable being visible to their classmates and have opted to turn their cameras off, making it impossible for teachers to easily check on their progress.
Students in the classroom cannot hear students at home and vice versa. Teachers experience disruptions to instruction as their attention is diverted to resolving technology issues.
All of this has had a significant negative impact on establishing routines and environments that allow teachers and students to feel comfortable in their learning space — something that is crucial to establish after a six-month hiatus of in-person learning.
Educators expressed these concerns in a letter signed by the full membership that was sent to the School Committee on September 17th. School Committee has chosen to not respond to this letter or address the needs of Hopkinton educators or students.
Abate said that the HTA saw a few instances where livestreaming could work easily, such as in upper-level high school courses with small class sizes. The district, though, wants to use livestreaming across many courses.
“We understand that every family wants the high quality of education that Hopkinton teachers supply, and every student in Hopkinton deserves that,” Abate said. “But livestreaming does not guarantee that quality of instruction and in many ways undermines it.”
Demanding constant livestreaming shows a lack of leadership and imagination. We can’t pretend students are in a school by demanding they damage their eyesight by forcing them to stare at a screen for hours at a time
Give educators the freedom to foster learning and it will happen. Don’t create grid schedules that look good on a website and teach children to hate school.
Regardless of whether you agree with live-streaming or not, a clear lack of leadership is in full display. The parents have been told that the deal is all-but-signed, teachers-support, or last-and-best-offer.
The school, teachers, and government should work to improve the concerns of remote learning. Because our country is steamrolling into hundreds of thousands of deaths form covid. So let’s make this option work as best we can for all. Having remote and hybrid students in sync, allows students to easily switch between the two, as needed for covid, the common cold, and down to the car wouldn’t start.