Does Virtual School Work?
Whenever you work in a new country, you start to realize how the United States in many ways has figured out to be a stable country. Many friends, who have only traveled to Europe, are the only people who would disagree. They might mention are terrible public transit in the United States or how education is not up to par. But working and living overseas in obscure places has taught me that the United States has a lot figured out.
Working overseas many teachers will teach the elite of the country. Venezuela was no different. I only taught truly local kids in China when I made $800 dollars a month. International teachers make enough to save but sadly do not teach the true middle class without taking a pay cut to the salary.
In Venezuela, currently, we are in the beginning steps towards a revolution. The protest stage. So far, in two months of protest I have heard about 45-50 people have died. One man was burned alive because the crowd around him said he was a thief. I am also glued to my phone every night to receive a message that may or may not come. If I get a message, the school goes into Virtual School.
Virtual school would not be so bad if I had to make youtube videos and share them with my students with me teaching new topics and having open discussion boards like you might have in university online courses. However, this is not Virtual School for an elementary student. My job is to give work they can finish. (AKA busy work) If the work is too hard, my phone rings constantly full of questions what to do. If the work is too easy, I hear parents complain. So to find the great compromise is difficult when your student population is a range of abilities.
At the end of the day, no new ideas can take place. Students are generally not pushed to think the same way a teacher’s presence can provide. I find the parent’s attitude about virtual school is a checklist. “Let’s get all of this work done!” It is not about, “Is my child still learning?” “Am I still having them question ideas and thoughts a teacher would do?” “How can this be better?”
From my personal experience, Virtual School is a virtual waste of time. When I go back to school, I spend anywhere between 15-30 to check all the work that should be done in virtual school becuase only about 5 students will consistently email me their work when they finish. I also end up giving 15 minutes of free time to those who finished everything so the students who have irresponsible parents might become magical mature 9 year olds and complete their own virtual school work.
It is frustrating, to say the least, that I need to treat Virtual School the same as homework. I award those who finish it and have to find appropriate consequences for those who didn’t. I waste 30 minutes to an hour explaining assignments that a student may or may not complete.
If a country you move to is experiencing any weird government issue my advice is to understand their virtual school or emergency plan is the country becomes dangerous. Find out what the school considers dangerous where they will go into Virtual School. Find out how the school uses Virtual School. I am explicitly told not to teach anything new. Luckily, the protests have started in the end of May and we have gone to school for half days so I had the opportunity to teach new topics. However, not teaching new material makes Virtual School work feel like busy work to have their kids think about other things even though they are becoming significantly more stressed due to attitudes and actions of the parents and adults around them.
Questions to ask your school
1. Do students learn new material during Virtual School?
2. Are students accountable for the work they produce?
3. Is there an open dialogue between all the students during a certain period of time?
4. How can we make virtual school better?
5. What is virtual school missing that a classroom