Distance learning is forcing everyone to adjust. Teachers, parents, and students are adjusting to new schedules. Many students have no ‘live’ classes to attend, spending their day completing asynchronous assignments. Some classes meet once or twice a week, with students working on assignments independently between classes.
Learning a new schedule is hard for all students (and all teachers, for that matter), but the negative impact doesn’t affect all student equally. It’s especially hard on students with learning differences, such as ADHD or dyslexia. Without transition times and clear expectations of how the day will unfold, students with learning differences may struggle to stay engaged.
In this installment of the SMARTS Online Remote Learning stories, a parent of a middle schooler describes the chaos and stress caused by rapidly shifting schedules.
Just when I thought things were calming down a little bit with some routine and schedule in place, the school decided to change the whole schedule around. Change for change’s sake? Now we have a whole new set of stress around figuring out what’s changing and what’s not, new uncertainties around what seems to be a much more complicated schedule, with more “fun” electives and book clubs (dyslexic torture, if they’re “good old-fashioned” book clubs). The email from our teacher says, “This school-wide schedule change was created to improve the functioning of the remote schooling experience for as many constituents across the whole school as possible.” As usual, the goal is to make school work for the majority, with no concern for individualization or the needs of the minority.
No one likes to feel out of control. Given how unexpected the shift to remote learning has been, a sense of chaos was probably inevitable. However, as schools shift and adjust their schedules, it will be important to communicate the rationale and to reaffirm the commitment to meeting the needs of all students, especially those with learning and attention differences.
There’s so much talk about this time of crisis as an “opportunity” to slow down and simplify and limit screen time — to do things in a more old-fashioned way. But, that doesn’t work for everyone. My student needs technology and lots of activities that are dyslexic-friendly. Right now, it seems like there’s a good excuse for this teaching-for-most approach. But really, this is business as usual. As educators, how can we help our students, who may be used to feeling like school is not for them, feel connected and valued? We can begin by:
- Taking time for reflection to make sure students and parents feel heard.
- Clearly stating directions and expectations to help all students succeed.
Schedules and teaching practices have to change, but if we can build in opportunities to differentiate assignments, leverage technology, and build in transition times, we can help our students, and their parents, feel supported.
- Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director