Virtual school plans spark ‘confusion and chaos’ for teachers, union says

News Sep 11, 2020 by Jacob Lorinc, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter Hamilton Spectator

Teachers assigned to lead remote-learning classes know little about the classes they’re supposed to teach or the resources available to them, an elementary teachers’ union says.

“I only have one word to describe this situation: chaos,” said Jeff Sorensen, president of the Hamilton-Wentworth Elementary Teachers’ Local union, on Friday.

Educators expected to resume full-time classes Sept. 16 for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) are dealing with a “sense of confusion and chaos,” says Sorensen.

“Most of our virtual teachers are still waiting for timetables and assignments. They know they’ll have to teach, for example, Grade 6 students, but they don’t know what they’re supposed to be teaching or how. Math? Art? English? They have no idea.”

The school board has spent the past few weeks assigning between 240 to 300 teachers to a virtual-only school that will host more than 8,000 elementary students learning exclusively from home this September. The number of students opting to learn online has grown significantly, increasing by 2,000 students this week alone, as families contemplate how best to educate their children during a global pandemic.

The virtual school’s rising enrolment numbers — which will host students from schools across the Hamilton-Wentworth district in one online hub — have led to last-minute teacher reassignments and new hires to keep up with demand.

Peter Sovran, associate director of learning services for the HWDSB, acknowledged the last-minute decisions that have arisen in preparation for online learning.

“We know this has been a really significant undertaking by everyone. There are extraordinarily short time frames, with unprecedented reorganization prior to the start of the school year,” Sovran said.

But Sorensen with the union said many of the teachers lack experience using online-learning tools and are scrambling to familiarize themselves with curriculums for grades they aren’t used to teaching.

With online-only classes expected to begin on Wednesday, Sorensen says that many feel unprepared to teach their students and worry that the lack of preparation will impact their students’ education.

“It’s not going to do any good for students’ learning, this kind of last-minute disruption. There’s been no time for preparation, no time for teachers to get to know their students. We have kindergarten teachers who are teaching Grade 8 students for the first time in their lives and vice versa. It’s just not going to be like any other year,” Sorensen told The Spec.

The board began the hiring and reassignment process midway through August, offering professional development days to teachers to familiarize themselves with online-learning methods. Due to a late-August deadline for families to register their children for in-person or online-only classes, the board only recently learned of how many students would be attending remotely.

“There are teachers who’ve been assigned very late to remote learning,” Sovran said, “and they will be teaching in areas they have not taught before. It’s going to take some time to prepare for all this, for sure.”

Some teachers have said that the professional development offered by the board has not adequately prepared them for the school year and doesn’t account for the information they’re missing.

One elementary teacher assigned to teach online-only Grade 1 classes — who The Spec agreed not to name in order to protect her job security — says the board has not yet provided her with a list of students or told her how she is expected to teach these classes online.

“We’ve asked questions and we haven’t received answers. How do we teach certain classes online? What if students can’t afford certain supplies at home? Do we have assessment tools we can use to assess our children’s’ comprehension levels? Every time we ask these questions to the board, we’re rebuffed. We’re told we’ll find out later, and yet school starts next week,” she said.

Complications surrounding remote learning prompted Hamilton’s Catholic board to delay the start of its virtual school by one day, to Sept. 15, to allow “teachers and students time to work with the technology (and) begin to make connections with their teachers and fellow students.”

The HWDSB says it will be starting online-only classes on Wednesday as planned.

“We’re still confident we can open on Wednesday,” said Sovran.

“We’re going to allow for some transition time when classes start — time where students can talk through what this new reality will look like and get to know their teachers. We’re going to continue to exercise that patience and ask everyone to do the same, as opposed to delaying the start of school. We think it’s really important for students to be back in school.”

Jacob Lorinc’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. The funding allows him to report on stories about education.

Virtual school plans spark ‘confusion and chaos’ for teachers, union says

Catholic board delays start by a day, while public board asks for patience as online school starts Wednesday

News Sep 11, 2020 by Jacob Lorinc, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter Hamilton Spectator

Teachers assigned to lead remote-learning classes know little about the classes they’re supposed to teach or the resources available to them, an elementary teachers’ union says.

“I only have one word to describe this situation: chaos,” said Jeff Sorensen, president of the Hamilton-Wentworth Elementary Teachers’ Local union, on Friday.

Educators expected to resume full-time classes Sept. 16 for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) are dealing with a “sense of confusion and chaos,” says Sorensen.

“Most of our virtual teachers are still waiting for timetables and assignments. They know they’ll have to teach, for example, Grade 6 students, but they don’t know what they’re supposed to be teaching or how. Math? Art? English? They have no idea.”

Related Content

The school board has spent the past few weeks assigning between 240 to 300 teachers to a virtual-only school that will host more than 8,000 elementary students learning exclusively from home this September. The number of students opting to learn online has grown significantly, increasing by 2,000 students this week alone, as families contemplate how best to educate their children during a global pandemic.

The virtual school’s rising enrolment numbers — which will host students from schools across the Hamilton-Wentworth district in one online hub — have led to last-minute teacher reassignments and new hires to keep up with demand.

Peter Sovran, associate director of learning services for the HWDSB, acknowledged the last-minute decisions that have arisen in preparation for online learning.

“We know this has been a really significant undertaking by everyone. There are extraordinarily short time frames, with unprecedented reorganization prior to the start of the school year,” Sovran said.

But Sorensen with the union said many of the teachers lack experience using online-learning tools and are scrambling to familiarize themselves with curriculums for grades they aren’t used to teaching.

With online-only classes expected to begin on Wednesday, Sorensen says that many feel unprepared to teach their students and worry that the lack of preparation will impact their students’ education.

“It’s not going to do any good for students’ learning, this kind of last-minute disruption. There’s been no time for preparation, no time for teachers to get to know their students. We have kindergarten teachers who are teaching Grade 8 students for the first time in their lives and vice versa. It’s just not going to be like any other year,” Sorensen told The Spec.

The board began the hiring and reassignment process midway through August, offering professional development days to teachers to familiarize themselves with online-learning methods. Due to a late-August deadline for families to register their children for in-person or online-only classes, the board only recently learned of how many students would be attending remotely.

“There are teachers who’ve been assigned very late to remote learning,” Sovran said, “and they will be teaching in areas they have not taught before. It’s going to take some time to prepare for all this, for sure.”

Some teachers have said that the professional development offered by the board has not adequately prepared them for the school year and doesn’t account for the information they’re missing.

One elementary teacher assigned to teach online-only Grade 1 classes — who The Spec agreed not to name in order to protect her job security — says the board has not yet provided her with a list of students or told her how she is expected to teach these classes online.

“We’ve asked questions and we haven’t received answers. How do we teach certain classes online? What if students can’t afford certain supplies at home? Do we have assessment tools we can use to assess our children’s’ comprehension levels? Every time we ask these questions to the board, we’re rebuffed. We’re told we’ll find out later, and yet school starts next week,” she said.

Complications surrounding remote learning prompted Hamilton’s Catholic board to delay the start of its virtual school by one day, to Sept. 15, to allow “teachers and students time to work with the technology (and) begin to make connections with their teachers and fellow students.”

The HWDSB says it will be starting online-only classes on Wednesday as planned.

“We’re still confident we can open on Wednesday,” said Sovran.

“We’re going to allow for some transition time when classes start — time where students can talk through what this new reality will look like and get to know their teachers. We’re going to continue to exercise that patience and ask everyone to do the same, as opposed to delaying the start of school. We think it’s really important for students to be back in school.”

Jacob Lorinc’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. The funding allows him to report on stories about education.

Virtual school plans spark ‘confusion and chaos’ for teachers, union says

Catholic board delays start by a day, while public board asks for patience as online school starts Wednesday

News Sep 11, 2020 by Jacob Lorinc, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter Hamilton Spectator

Teachers assigned to lead remote-learning classes know little about the classes they’re supposed to teach or the resources available to them, an elementary teachers’ union says.

“I only have one word to describe this situation: chaos,” said Jeff Sorensen, president of the Hamilton-Wentworth Elementary Teachers’ Local union, on Friday.

Educators expected to resume full-time classes Sept. 16 for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) are dealing with a “sense of confusion and chaos,” says Sorensen.

“Most of our virtual teachers are still waiting for timetables and assignments. They know they’ll have to teach, for example, Grade 6 students, but they don’t know what they’re supposed to be teaching or how. Math? Art? English? They have no idea.”

Related Content

The school board has spent the past few weeks assigning between 240 to 300 teachers to a virtual-only school that will host more than 8,000 elementary students learning exclusively from home this September. The number of students opting to learn online has grown significantly, increasing by 2,000 students this week alone, as families contemplate how best to educate their children during a global pandemic.

The virtual school’s rising enrolment numbers — which will host students from schools across the Hamilton-Wentworth district in one online hub — have led to last-minute teacher reassignments and new hires to keep up with demand.

Peter Sovran, associate director of learning services for the HWDSB, acknowledged the last-minute decisions that have arisen in preparation for online learning.

“We know this has been a really significant undertaking by everyone. There are extraordinarily short time frames, with unprecedented reorganization prior to the start of the school year,” Sovran said.

But Sorensen with the union said many of the teachers lack experience using online-learning tools and are scrambling to familiarize themselves with curriculums for grades they aren’t used to teaching.

With online-only classes expected to begin on Wednesday, Sorensen says that many feel unprepared to teach their students and worry that the lack of preparation will impact their students’ education.

“It’s not going to do any good for students’ learning, this kind of last-minute disruption. There’s been no time for preparation, no time for teachers to get to know their students. We have kindergarten teachers who are teaching Grade 8 students for the first time in their lives and vice versa. It’s just not going to be like any other year,” Sorensen told The Spec.

The board began the hiring and reassignment process midway through August, offering professional development days to teachers to familiarize themselves with online-learning methods. Due to a late-August deadline for families to register their children for in-person or online-only classes, the board only recently learned of how many students would be attending remotely.

“There are teachers who’ve been assigned very late to remote learning,” Sovran said, “and they will be teaching in areas they have not taught before. It’s going to take some time to prepare for all this, for sure.”

Some teachers have said that the professional development offered by the board has not adequately prepared them for the school year and doesn’t account for the information they’re missing.

One elementary teacher assigned to teach online-only Grade 1 classes — who The Spec agreed not to name in order to protect her job security — says the board has not yet provided her with a list of students or told her how she is expected to teach these classes online.

“We’ve asked questions and we haven’t received answers. How do we teach certain classes online? What if students can’t afford certain supplies at home? Do we have assessment tools we can use to assess our children’s’ comprehension levels? Every time we ask these questions to the board, we’re rebuffed. We’re told we’ll find out later, and yet school starts next week,” she said.

Complications surrounding remote learning prompted Hamilton’s Catholic board to delay the start of its virtual school by one day, to Sept. 15, to allow “teachers and students time to work with the technology (and) begin to make connections with their teachers and fellow students.”

The HWDSB says it will be starting online-only classes on Wednesday as planned.

“We’re still confident we can open on Wednesday,” said Sovran.

“We’re going to allow for some transition time when classes start — time where students can talk through what this new reality will look like and get to know their teachers. We’re going to continue to exercise that patience and ask everyone to do the same, as opposed to delaying the start of school. We think it’s really important for students to be back in school.”

Jacob Lorinc’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. The funding allows him to report on stories about education.