In her video address for Monday, May 11, 2020, ETT President Joy Lachica raises members’ concerns regarding the call for synchronous learning, including access to technology, equity, training, professional boundaries, student inclusion, violence, and more.
Watch the Video
“ETFO and ETT discourage synchronous online activities with students,” says ETT President Joy Lachica, responding to the latest memo to school boards from Education Minister Stephen Lecce.
“I am in weekly meetings with TDSB management, and, in these meetings, ETT has ensured that the Board clearly understands the issues at play for our members with regard to synchronous learning.”
“There is a respect for our concerns at these meetings,” says Joy, indicating that the weekly discussions with the TDSB are productive and will continue.
Are ETT Members Being Asked to Conduct Synchronous Learning Sessions With Students? Is This Required?
“I think you hear the answer,” says Joy.
“The Board is our employer, and, as your president, I have been engaging in collaborative professionalism on this, and we are exercising our professional judgement with the following critical concerns.”
1) Equitable Access to Technology
Many issues in this regard have not been addressed, including:
- equitable access to technology for staff and students;
- access to technology in households where there may be multiple students or family members working from home;
- insufficient internet speed and/or Wi-Fi access for staff and students; and
- increased risk to members who may be subject to allegations of misconduct while participating in virtual learning sessions.
2) Training is Essential
Fulsome training must be provided and should include:
- strategies related to safety and security including ways to protect ‘meetings’ and how to shut down ‘meetings’ immediately should something inappropriate be said or take place;
- clear direction on how to address and report any such inappropriate incidents;
- instruction on how to support students that witness harassment or racism;
- steps to immediately address any non-students, such as parents, guardians, older siblings, etc. entering a ‘meeting’; and
- consideration of where such ‘meetings’ take place and awareness that people may have artwork, books, other items, or even other people in the background that could be deemed inappropriate.
3) Equity Issues
Synchronous learning may heighten equity issues.
Not all students have access to a quiet place in their home to participate in synchronous learning, nor may they want to ‘invite’ other students into their homes.
4) Professional Boundaries
Members must carefully consider how they will maintain professional boundaries during interactions with students while providing instruction.
Cell phones make it easy for students, parents, or other parties to record online interactions, which could then be shared via social media. Recordings could be modified to change the tone, intent, or the message of what was said.
Members must be extra vigilant and cautious when interacting online with students.
5) Student Inclusion
Some students may not be able to participate synchronously, and members may need to plan asynchronous experiences for the same learning, doubling the workload.
Members are already going above and beyond, reporting long hours of planning, connecting with students, and supporting parents to make distance learning possible.
Violence in the home is a reality for many women, children, men, and 2SLGBTQ+ people, and many of our students may have already been witness to violence or experience it on a regular basis.
Canada’s Minister for Women and Gender Equality reported a 20 to 30 per cent increase in rates of gender-based violence and domestic violence in some regions of the country due to the COVID-19 crisis, with some shelters in Ontario experiencing a 400 per cent increase in calls for help.
Violence is a reality in our communities and something that must be considered when implementing synchronous learning.
Resources Concerning Distance Learning
Members are strongly advised to consult the following resources: