Zoom meetings. Remote learning. Those terms, in the future, when hopefully this COVID year is a memory and school once again means actually going to school, are going to send a shiver through me.
Remote learning just doesn't work well for Janey. To be fair, sometimes in person learning doesn't work well either, but that's if we look at things from a strictly academic perspective. In person learning has almost always worked in terms of helping Janey---making her happier, teaching her social skills, giving her life a purpose, keeping her active, and giving her time with some of the finest people I've ever known, her teachers and paras and therapists. Remote learning can't replace school for her. It probably can't for anyone, but for Janey, it's been a bit of a nightmare
What's hard about it for her? The biggest challenge is just getting her to sit down and listen and engage with the computer. I say "the computer" and not "her teachers" because I truly don't think she understands the people she sees on the screen are her teachers. I think she sees it as some kind of video that talks back to her and makes demands on her that regular videos don't. Unlike how she watches TV, it also requires her to stay in one place, to listen in order, to answer things. When she watches a video, she moves around constantly, rewinds often, changes shows, turns things off and on. No-one asks her questions. It's her time. Now, she's suddenly, in her eyes, being asked to watch videos that oddly feature people she knows in real life, and to watch them without constantly getting up, and without being able to stop and start and switch around. It's not her cup of tea, to say the least.
At school, everyone learns pretty quickly there's some days that Janey is ready to engage and some days she isn't, and some times during each day she's more alert and other times you can't get a word out of her. But remote learning is only at certain set times each day, and they often aren't her chosen times. Her poor sleep lately means that sometimes it's time to do school when she's sleepy, or hyped up from not sleeping, or just not in the mood. She's been doing fairly well each morning at 8 with the morning check-in, but that's only about 10 minutes. Even that requires us to remind her over and over and over to stay at the screen.
There is also so much that can't be captured on a screen. There's so many times Janey has answered a question when she's muted, or pointed to something on a screen when it's not a touch screen, or gave a response to something that was asked minutes ago. In a classroom, that would be noticed, but when a teacher is trying to teach 5 or 6 kids like Janey at once, or even in one on one sessions when Janey is not positioned right in front of the screen or loud enough or clear enough, so much is missed.
A classroom is full of activity, things to look at, things to engage with. A screen isn't. The teachers have done their level best, but nobody was trained for this. It's not something we ever anticipated.
So...what do we do? I am not sure. I know I've pretty much given up on remote learning. Janey goes to the morning meeting, has music therapy once a week and once in a while watches recorded lessons, but I am not pushing a lot more. When I did, it wasn't pretty. Janey reverted to scarily tough behaviors. We got the message.
I want Janey back in the classroom, IF that is safe. It's looking more like it might be, from my reading. I don't think COVID is spread much at schools. COVID is hugely scary, something I would like our family to avoid getting at almost any cost, and I fully understand why schools closed. And if science shows they need to stay closed---well, so be it. Nothing is more important than staying alive, of course. But I am now at the point that if school opens, and those with more knowledge than myself determine it's safe, even if no-one can say it's 100% safe, I'll send her. Nothing is 100% safe, ever.
I wonder how other families are handling this, how remote learning works for your kids, what your schools are offering. I'd love to hear from people around the US and around the world about your experiences.