The Pinellas County School Board met Tuesday night, amid concerns from parents and teachers, to discuss the impact of simultaneous teaching — teaching both in the classroom and online — on students and faculty.
The most obvious takeaway of the night was that simultaneous teaching is not working in Pinellas County schools. It reveals the shortcomings of doing both online and in-person teaching leaving educators feeling powerless to give their students the education they need.
One first-grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary in Clearwater, Paula Stephens, explained how she believes the issues stem from the sudden canceling of schools in March.
“I have a student who knows four of his letter sounds, and I have another student who is reading on a second-grade level,” Stephens said. “I haven’t even gotten to assess my online kiddos yet.”
Students attending class in person should have the benefits of interactive lessons, and students learning online need more attention from teachers to stay engaged. The solution is to separate these unique classrooms. Having separate teachers focused solely on online instruction or teaching in classrooms would allow them to figure out the most effective methods to teach their students during this time of uncertainty.
Despite understanding the flaws of simultaneous teaching, Chairperson Carol Cook clarified that the School Board is asking teachers to create just one universal lesson plan for both online and in-person students.
A single lesson plan means no interactive lesson plans. You can’t just send each student a single piece of parchment paper and art supplies in the mail. Board members recommended PowerPoints and video lectures as an alternative.
Pinellas County School Board members seemed almost apathetic toward issues surrounding simultaneous teaching. Associate Superintendent Kevin Hendrick told those in attendance that while he sympathizes with teachers, this is the only option available to them at the moment.
“No teacher likes to sit behind a desk and talk at a screen, that’s not normal. … But that is the way that you have to do it,” Hendrick said.
As of Wednesday, close to 2,700 people have signed a petition urging the School Board to separate online and in-person classrooms.
Change is needed in schools on a systematic level. Expecting issues in the classroom to be solved by teachers lacking training and parents struggling at home is inexcusable.
Nicholas Cousineau is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism.