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18 Reasons Why We Need to Make Online Learning More Accessible

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For the past year and a half, I’ve been going to school to get my bachelor’s degree in special education, and this fall, amidst the pandemic, student teaching has finally arrived. In the district I’m doing student teaching in, it has also been decided that they’re going to start the year virtually — something that will make for a very unique student teaching experience. It’s also somewhat terrifying to me considering I’ve never taught in a traditional setting, never mind virtual.

However, I’m also glad for the safety virtual teaching provides, and I know I’m not alone in my apprehensions for the upcoming school year. Last week, we reached out to The Mighty Community over on Facebook to ask some of your biggest fears about the upcoming school year. Here are some of the great responses we received:

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

“My greatest fear as a teacher is being exposed and infecting my family. As someone with an autoimmune disease, my fear is death. I had a severe presentation and although my health has greatly improved I worry that contracting COVID would be too much for my body to handle.” -Nicole S.

“My oldest son is a 10th grader. He has multiple disabilities and receives special education services. School is the optimal place for him and his peers. I fear teachers and students who have not been as careful could infect someone else. The death of a student, teacher, staff member or administrator would be devastating. There are no simple answers here. I feel most for parents/caregivers of young children or children with disabilities who can’t work from home. The burdens are great in every scenario.” -Jessica K.

“As a parent, I have two [fears], 1) that my youngest will develop anxiety about being in groups, and 2) my elderly MIL lives with us. She has underlying health conditions. How do we keep her safe while returning to school?” -Jessica T.

“I’m in nursing school and there are courses I need to take that should not be taught online, but that’s how I’m having to learn. I’m afraid I’ll miss concepts or lessons and it’ll cause problems in my future education and career.” -Katie S.

“Having lost the father of my daughter on February 19th of this year, I am afraid of dying due to having an underlying heart issue and leaving her to live in this world without a parent at 16 years old.” -Jennifer R.

“As a parent, wife of a teacher, and a frontline medical professional, I’m scared of how many more people will need care that won’t be enough to save them. I don’t want to see any more patients with a disease that could be prevented.” -Melanie C.

“I became a teacher completely prepared to step in front of bullets for my students. But this is like taking those bullets home to my family. I’m a teacher with a serious illness…what traumas are coming if I lose a student? If I lose a colleague? If I lose a family member? If my students lose their teacher? If my daughter and husband lose a mom and wife?” -Amy D.

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“The absolute disruption of transferring (possibly multiple times) from in school to remote learning. Very difficult for students with anxiety disorders who need to know what to expect to function well.” -Kim V.

“I’m afraid people with disabilities won’t get the support they need, especially now.” -John-Paul M.

“As a parent of a child with a disability that receives supports and another child with depression and anxiety that both need the in-person, structured teaching, I recognize the need for them to be there. However, I am terrified of them going back because their daddy is extremely high risk. I can’t be sure, given the current climate when it comes to refusal to wear masks, social distance, etc., I can’t be sure that they will be in a classroom with kids who live in a home where these things are valued and taught as a way to keep everyone healthy.” -Tina M.

“I’m not a teacher, but I am a school cafeteria staff member. I worry about the possibility of infection in the school while at the same time I worry about the kids at risk who have been kept away from help for so long. I don’t think there’s an easy answer to any of this.” -Joanne S.

“My greatest fear is that during these changes, kids will lose their love of learning. We must continue to cultivate young minds in whatever capacity we can to keep that love alive.” -Patricia C.

“With my fibromyalgia I fear that because they’re not reopening the colleges properly and only doing online learning, I’ll have no reason to get out of bed still. I’ve already lost a lot of progress with my illness. I don’t need to lose more because they’re continuing remote learning without proper aids.” -Eleanor M.

“I’m a 61-year-old third-grade teacher. If I was only 64! I’m afraid to become sick and bring it home to my husband who is a retired 65-year-old survivor of lung cancer surgery in Feb. 2020. I’ve worn a mask since February.” -Karen S.

“I fear the virus and the kids or staff getting it. My biggest fear is if the schools don’t reopen the social isolation my oldest is feeling currently will continue to grow and we are already have seen changes with attitude and issues with emotion. He has ADHD and not having that structure has caused many issues at home and daycare.” -Nina M.

“As a teacher, my biggest fear is infecting my family. I have been thinking a lot about quitting because of that. Parents and legislators think only about the low risk for kids but forget about teachers and other school workers.” -Maricota C.

“How do or do we prepare our children for the death of teachers or classmates. Will they ever want to return to school?”
-Michelle V.

“I’m afraid my child will bring it home to me who is immune-compromised and that I die. I’m afraid that for the rest of his life he will live with the guilt and fear that he ‘killed his mom’ as opposed to the virus killing me.” -Jennifer F.

In these unknown and unprecedented times, it seems everyone has their own fears. Kids with IEPs or 504 plans need additional assistance that the digital world doesn’t provide, yet being in school could promote the spread of COVID-19 and have serious repercussions for many families throughout the world.

Somehow, we need to find a way to make online learning more accessible to ensure both neurotypical and exceptional students get their needs met despite being in a virtual setting. These are all real fears, and I connect to many of them as someone who’s entering the world of teaching.

As a community, I hope this year we find a way to do better than the end of last school year. I hope more policies are put in place and children who need school the most aren’t overlooked. However, I also hope that returning to school is safe and not rushed. I think finding that happy medium will be the hardest part.

For more on parenting during the pandemic, check out the following stories from our community:

Getty image by Aleutie.

Originally published: August 4, 2020
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