• Tina Huggins

School Days...aren't what they used to be for some in Nashville



Out of college I became a first grade teacher. I loved teaching little ones so full of energy and excited to be in school....at least most of them were! I got married and had three children twenty months apart. What a joy to be home with them until the last one was in Kindergarten. I returned to the classroom at their school, teaching technology to grades K-6, something I knew nothing about, yet I somehow had the instinct that technology would enhance children's learning. I certainly didn't expect it to be front and center like it is today. My interest in technology later led me to graduate school for a Masters in Educational Technology which really changed the trajectory of my career.


Fast forward to 2020! I have a wonderful grandson who is in second grade. Since March of this year, due to the Covid-19 virus, he has not played with another child his age. Can you imagine not being with any of your friends for seven months? He has been unable to do any summer activities with his friends. He was excited about returning to school to get to be with his friends, until Metro Public Schools decided not to let children return to school, and instead do virtual learning at home.

It boggles my mind at the expectation that parents with full-time jobs and working from home are expected to monitor and help teach their child or children. Not everyone can afford a nanny, or a tutor. Most schools across Tennessee have re-opened, but not Nashville Metro Public Schools. Our own Mayor's son has been able to return to his private school and yet the Mayor has agreed with keeping the Public Schools closed. Our city has failed our community by not having a plan to get students safely back into school. All of Nashville's private schools and all surrounding county schools have established plans for either hybrid options or full return to school so why is Nashville Metro Public School so unprepared.


Every week, my daughter and I create a schedule around our work meetings to juggle a routine that will allow one of us to monitor and work with her son. He is using Florida's Virtual School on a laptop. The day begins with a 55 minute session for Independent Learning with assignments in a daily folder on his computer. I ask you... have you ever seen a 7 year old work independently for 50 minutes?


Following independent learning is an hour session of Language Arts with his teacher (who is terrific). She does provide a brief break during this session to get the wiggles out. After Language Arts, there is another 50 minutes session of Independent Learning with plenty of worksheets to complete. Then we get a little excited because we have 30 minutes for PE, Art, Music or Chinese followed by lunch. After lunch is Math three days a week and Science or Social Studies the other two days for an hour follow by another 45 minutes to finish assignments. No second grader can do this independently. An adult must be available to insure a child this age can to be successful and isn't left behind.


If Independent learning is considered homework...these 2nd graders have too much!

The National PTA recommendations fall in line with general guidelines suggested by researcher Harris Cooper: 20-30 minutes for second grade.


My daughter and I have been in school for four weeks now:

  • We have experienced the system going down

  • We are trying to learn not to use the chat box which is available for students, but not allowed. Who doesn't love to chat and use emojis...my grandson does.

  • We have learned that it is easy to click the wrong image and suddenly we are in the wrong class and then late getting to the right class

  • We are learning to navigate thru all the weekly folders and assignments, as well as open and complete activities.

  • We are learning not to provide any help when he is struggling to understand what he is to do...as we have been told not to assist.

As one can see virtual learning for young learners requires a parent, grandparent or a hired adult to be available to monitor a young child. I can't imagine any parent working full-time doing this with multiple children in the house. What happens to the child who doesn't have a parent at home to help. It isn't right or fair when most of the state schools and private schools are open. Our city should be doing a better job!


Note:

A normal attention span for a child is 3 to 5 minutes per year of a child's age.. If a child has ADHD that is significantly less.

https://blog.brainbalancecenters.com/normal-attention-span-expectations-by-age

Average attention spans work out like this:

  • 2 years old: four to six minutes

  • 4 years old: eight to 12 minutes

  • 6 years old: 12 to 18 minutes

  • 8 years old: 16 to 24 minutes

  • 10 years old: 20 to 30 minutes

  • 12 years old: 24 to 36 minutes

  • 14 years old: 28 to 42 minutes

  • 16 years old: 32 to 48 minutes

If you are a parent with young learners at home, this information helps you understand when your child is restless with ants in their pants. Be sure they have plenty of short minute breaks between learning during the day!


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