No one can be in two places at once. That’s a fact of life. But while we know this to be true, our teachers are expected to deliver programming to the students in the classroom and on the screens simultaneously in school boards that are implementing hybrid learning.
The hybrid model is born out of a requirement for a virtual learning option while the amount of money allocated per student has not been added; in fact, it will be even lower than it was last year.
In the fractured hybrid learning model, educators’ attention is divided between the children peering into the classroom through a computer screen and those attending class in person. This means a single teacher could be teaching 15 students in person while at the same time they are meant to be supporting 12 students at home on screens. The situation is not ideal for students or teachers, but it is avoidable.
While some educators in Ontario have been working to provide students with the support they need over two entirely different formats simultaneously, this method leaves our students behind and teachers highly stressed and exhausted. Tasked to provide two completely different types of instruction, and give the students the individual support they need simultaneously, in two different formats, is unrealistic.
The hybrid model disproportionately affects students with special education needs and other students who are marginalized. It compounds inequities that already exist for Black, Indigenous, and other racialized students. There is no equity of access to programs in hybrid learning, especially for students who don’t have reliable internet access at home or the technology to use it. The hybrid model sets up a two-tier education system that has no place in public education.
Some boards have managed to avoid the hybrid model and deliver the mandatory virtual learning. The Elementary Teachers of Toronto (ETT) urges the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) to remain the leader in doing what is best for students by continuing to avoid using the hybrid model and delivering a virtual learning option staffed by teachers explicitly dedicated to online learners.
The hybrid model appears to be more cost-effective, but if you look beyond the budget, the human cost is clear. The impact on students’ mental health alone is staggering. Students staring into a screen to watch some of their peers engaged in hands-on activities and experiments while watching from home can negatively impact one’s self-esteem, exacerbate learning gaps, and feelings towards school and cause disengagement from learning.
Educators will continue to do their best with what they have. Over the 18 months of this pandemic, they have and will continue putting their best foot forward for the students in their care.
Our students deserve access to high-quality learning options, and we have the power to help them thrive. Give students what they need to succeed and join the push for dedicated learning.
ETT serves approximately 11,000 elementary teachers (K-8) employed by the TDSB across more than 500 schools/sites. To reach such a large and diverse group, the organization works continuously to educate and inform, and provides a wide range of ongoing opportunities.