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Opinion: Not a lost year for NPS students

Norwalk Federation of Teachers President Mary Yordon.

NancyOnNorwalk recently asked Norwalk Federation of Teachers President Mary Yordon for her opinion on the “distance learning” now being conducted by Norwalk Public Schools. This is her response.

The Norwalk Federation of Teachers leadership is proud of the work that Norwalk Public Schools is doing in distance learning. Norwalk is very well positioned compared to many other districts in the state. Teachers everywhere are stepping up to the needs of the students during this time.

Some districts are starting to create the kind of environment of tech skills and access for students that we had going into this crisis. Teachers here didn’t miss a day of work, but others needed time to regroup. Our head start is due to several years of increasing the number of Chromebooks and other machines, while slowly building tech skills and an infrastructure of tech for learning and teaching.

The Dalio Foundation, the Norwalk Education Foundation, Norwalk ACTS and other community partners, along with every taxpayer and the entire team of educators here in Norwalk have all contributed in various ways to bring us to where we are now, maintaining a continuity of instruction for our students. We celebrate the efforts of parents and guardians who are now at the sides of students making learning possible.

Norwalk Federation of Teachers members aren’t necessarily all familiar with the tools needed in this environment, but we are all committed to trying to increase our expertise. Our administrators, Central Office, and State officials are doing what is possible to provide support for the most part. We have been trying to increase the communication and collaboration between district officials and the union, and trying to work out details without drama, grievances, and other actions that jeopardize our focus on our students.

You may ask, are the kids learning as best as possible? Most kids are spending time in productive, educational pursuits, but it is hard to generalize. We’ve all heard the phrase, “It takes a village.” All across Connecticut certified staff are moving heaven and earth to be part of the virtual village that supports the parents and guardians of some of our more vulnerable young students.

For many students, it is painful to see education boiled down to a website or a log-in screen, and we are trying to make it better than that. Education should include more meaningful interactions with peers and educators than is currently possible in a virtual learning environment, but we are all doing the best we can under the circumstances. Attendance is high for many reasons. Among the reasons is that our students are looking for the supportive social and educational connections they need.
We’ve had a good seven months of solid instruction that preceded the crisis. This is not a lost year. I believe our students will be well positioned to make their next moves, all things considered.

3 comments

nora king April 4, 2020 at 2:25 pm

She is so off base here. My son is saying he is learning 1/4 of what he was. He is an honor student. There are barely any lectures. We may have been the first to the table, but it doesn’t mean that what we did was educational. Online education should have full lections with teachers working directly with students for the entire process. That is not what is happening nor can it happen since many teachers are also educating their own children.

I think our teachers are awesome ( I love my children’s teachers) but they are not equipped to deal with this. We have the best principal at Rowayton school…he is a Rockstar. Some of them have kids of their own that they must educate. They are doing their best. It is the management and the politicians that I question with the decisions they are making with content, timing and school year deadline.

My daughter receives packets mostly of material that she has already covered, and it is up the parent to teach her. Many students don’t even receive their packets on time. I am still working. So, I am trying to earn a living and be the teacher. I need to work, if not I cannot pay for the roof over my kid’s head or the food they need to eat. So, for Mary Yordon to think our kids are being educated ( 7 months – really) and are positioned competitively she is so wrong and has lost touch with reality. The quality of the distance learning is not okay as a substitution for what is needed. I realize these are trying times and I am enjoying spending much more time with my family. But what keeps me up and gives me anxiety is that our kids are not being educated enough. I feel that it was already an issue before this virus based on the quality of education in neighboring towns. I have always embraced Norwalk because it is a city and has diversity, but Norwalk is going to need to step it up and figure out how to ensure these kids have the education that they would have received without this. It is not okay to say all kids in the nation are in the same boat because they are not.

The Governor or the Union should not be so eager to close schools on June 5th. If teachers need to be paid more than that is what a rainy-day fund is for. I am so tired of hearing about Triple A bonding and I know that is what the politicians will spit out…but I want the city to step up and pick up any costs needed to ensure our kids get the full year of education that they deserve and need. School should go longer than June 5th in an actual classroom to ensure these kids are educated.

As a parent in a city that is so diverse – we will not be prepared for the education that our children need especially since we already struggle to keep up with neighboring towns. Our kids will see it on the testing, on the SATs and other tools they will need to advance.

Claire Schoen April 6, 2020 at 5:17 pm

I really don’t get the above comment. We are in the middle of a national crisis, our school district has stepped up as well if not better than others in the country.
Distance learning is not the same as a classroom experience, but it’s the best we have. Like classrooms, some experiences will be better than others.
Not sure what you expect politicians to do other than continue to assess the situation and pivot where necessary. The next few months are going to be very fluid, hopefully we are learning more about this virus and our social isolation tactics will work to tamp it down.
Plenty of learning can go on outside the classroom. Challenge your son and daughter – read an extra book, watch a related documentary, take a course at the Maritime Aquarium, keep a journal of current events….
Our teachers are among today’s heroes but they aren’t miracle workers.
Let’s put things into context – this is a moment in history. It’s bigger than all of us.

Babar Sheikh April 7, 2020 at 9:30 am

We can all complain all day right now, no one is in a good situation. Trying to work with what we have is the goal now and do the best we can. School situation isn’t ideal but it’s not a total loss either. We are much better prepared than some other counties I have read or heard about.

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