Education, Features, Health and Safety, Municipal Government, New York

Teachers and Students Respond

May 13, 2020

By Ben Kimmel

With New York’s pause extended to June 6 and the future uncertain, the Governor shared some ideas on how to go forward and approach the “New Normal.” One idea has caused major concerns among those employed in the educational field. 

In a conference on Tuesday, May 6, Cuomo said, “The old model of everybody goes and sits in the classroom, and the teacher is in front of that classroom and teaches that class, and you do that all across the city, all across the state, all these buildings, all these physical classrooms — why, with all the technology you have?” 

There are questions that arise, such as what does this mean to the working parents that need dual incomes? What changes will this create for the students that appreciate the helpful guidance of trained support? More importantly, what about the job losses and the hopeful careers of college graduates that paid their tuition to become a teacher?

There is a mounting concern for the children and the social dynamic that shapes their future. During an interview to address this situation, Brian T. explained that as an employee of the Department of Education, “The union will never go for this!” He explained, “Socialization is too important.”

The question at hand is will virtual lessons ever be as effective as the passion behind human interaction? When asked to comment, Brain said, “Absolutely not!” 

Other teachers that asked to be completely anonymous explained that many students are struggling with virtual learning. There are students with extra needs, in which case, changing the format of an interactive classroom has caused concern for many students.

“A virtual teacher cannot replace the passion of a human to teach and encourage a student to grow and find their purpose,” said one teacher.

Mindi Gilmurray, a New York native and educator shared her thoughts regarding Cuomo’s idea. She stressed the importance of “Face to Face” instruction and emphasized the importance for a necessary change in environment. “School is an important place for a child to go, especially if the child is neglected at home.”

Gilmurray explained the lessons in school go beyond the classroom. She discussed the lessons of social awareness and the importance of friendship that teach relationship skills. “All of this happens in school too. It’s not just math and science.”

Gilmurray responded to Cuomo’s statement and said, “There are people that are making decisions that never taught in a classroom. They are not educators. They should not be the ones making decisions.”

According to the New York State Department of Education website, the department oversees more than 700 school districts with 3.2 million students, 7,000 libraries, and 900 museums.

The “Stay home” orders and public shutdowns were set in place to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak. However, with concern for infection still mounting and the daily information changing, the “New Normal” remains unclear. 

Originally, Cuomo hesitated to shut down schools for the remainder of the year, citing that he understands people need a place to send their children while at work. As a result of the decision to shut down schools, there are students that have lost their teenage rites of passage. This meant the cancellation of sporting events. There will be no junior or senior proms this year. Most notably, the quarantine canceled graduation, which is an honored event for both parents and students alike. Is this the future Cuomo has in mind for our children?

I asked a student for his opinion about virtual learning at my town’s market. The young man laughed through his mask and replied, “I never thought I would say this, but I actually think I might miss school.” Standing behind him was his mother who added, “Yeah, me too.” It is unclear if Cuomo is concerned with this opinion.

Ben Kimmel is a proud member of the IUOE Local 94, as well as a Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Certified Recovery Coach, Certified Professional Life Coach, and Peer & Wellness Advocate.  Ben can be reached at bennyk1972@gmail.com

May 13, 2020

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