Rural teacher laments COVID’s tough test for kids
Schoolteacher Annetta Clarke is holding out hope that with the vaccination roll-out, she will be able to see students face-to-face at her Lawrence Tavern school when the new academic year begins in September.
Unplugged from the classroom, physical distancing has stolen her joy, and she longs to touch her students and watch them gambol about as they did before the coronavirus outbreak in March 2020 shuttered schools.
The Government has experimented with a phased resumption of in-person classes, which was downscaled to only students sitting external exams. All schools were shut again last month amid a spike in infections.
Rural schooling in the pandemic has been an uphill task for Clarke, with bouts of frustration arising from Internet connectivity woes, as well as a steep and bumpy learning curve for online classes.
She is especially concerned about those children who have suffered from the learning loss that has swept the globe, including in the west-rural St Andrew community.
“I wish that we go back to school in September, because I think more children would learn. Children are still left behind. Those are the ones that I am concerned you are not able to reach,” said Clarke.
“I miss them! You have a different feeling when you teach students face-to-face, you get to understand them better. Students don’t just learn academics, you have to deal with the emotional part, you have to teach them values ... ,” she added.
Clarke said she does not have a clear plan to remediate out-of-reach children, but she sees assessing them as a first step.
As a rural teacher, she has observed the difficulties students have had trying to grasp the content being taught.
“They do learn, but they don’t do as well as you would have wanted them to do,” Clarke, who had been attending to domestic issues, said on Tuesday, the first full day of freedom after the Easter weekend lockdown.
Clarke admits that she has been frustrated by the juggling act of conducting online teaching while overseeing remote learning for her own children.
“Although they are online, they still want your attention. They [are] messaging you late in the night, messaging you late on the weekend, and if you have to teach your kids, the time that you have is limited. So, it was really challenging, and it is still challenging for me,” the teacher explained.
Clarke is appealing to the education ministry not to rush the resumption of in-person classes, and is calling for a special curriculum to be crafted to help students catch up on their studies.
“Give the students time to grow because they would have missed out a lot. So, they probably need some special curriculum. This [the pandemic] is a special case,” she said.