Teachers make sense of new guidelines for distance learning — before school starts on Aug 18

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At Baldwin Hills School and the rest of LAUSD, the fall semester will begin in less than two weeks. Photo by Amy Ta/KCRW

LAUSD students will start school in less than two weeks, and like last spring, classes will be online. But this time, there will likely be more structure due to a tentative agreement between the teachers union and the district. 

The plan calls for a 30-hour school week, attendance-taking, and time for student and family counseling. 

The teachers union still needs to approve the plan. They’re scheduled to vote on it next week. 

KCRW talks about this with two LAUSD teachers. Arian White teaches fourth grade at Baldwin Hills Elementary. Cynthia Castillo teaches high school English language development at Rise School of Business in South LA. 

Castillo says it’s tough to accept virtual learning, but understands that it’s necessary right now.

“This has been a logistical nightmare, and there's no perfect solution for everybody. And the best thing we can do is try to be flexible and try to be understanding and … navigate this new world that we're in right now.”

White says that as virtual learning continues, some younger students might need supervision, which could open up jobs. He says local governments could step in and provide such jobs.

White says students won’t be required to sit in front of a screen for all 30 hours a week, but it can still be challenging for those in lower grades. “How do you get 4 to 6 year olds to sit in front of a screen?”

When it comes to mandatory attendance taking, Castillo says that might be challenging for some of her students who’ve found jobs during the pandemic. They’re helping support their families and might not be able to attend every class. 

Castillo plans to survey her students to see what’s going on in their lives, so she can develop curriculums that will benefit them. 

For students to become independent and accountable, White says establishing expectations will be important. And parents must be responsible too.

“I had situations where parents were giving their students answers in the middle of class. So this year, starting off, I'm going to say, ‘Okay, these are the expectations.’ And say to parents, ‘You want to treat this [like] we're trying to engender independence. You want to treat this as though the child is independent.’”

Castillo says she’ll have to work with limited resources outside of the classroom and will go without her typical tools, such as sticky notepads and whiteboards. 

“I'm going to be using those [virtual] background wallpapers to represent my personality and what I'm about,” Castillo says. “I hope to get my students to do the same, especially since some of them may not want to show where they're living. I have ideas [on how to ease] that concern so I can hopefully see their faces and not just a black screen with their name.”

Credits

Guest:
Arian White - 4th grade teacher at Baldwin Hills Elementary School Cynthia Castillo, high school English language development teacher at Rise School of Business in South Los Angeles

Host:
Jonathan Bastian

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Michell Eloy, Amy Ta, Rosalie Atkinson, Brian Hardzinski, Angie Perrin, Nihar Patel