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Remote Teaching ≠ Real School

April 16, 2020 pm30 9:55 pm

It’s not. Not close. But I’ll save the details for another day.

Big picture: we are working. We are working hard. Many of us are working as hard as we’ve ever worked. Many feel exhausted the way we haven’t since we were first-year teachers.

While we are trying, the City and the Department of Education are making our lives hard (and some administrations – not mine – are also standing in our way). They have stolen our planning time, while asking us to plan completely new lessons and even curricula. They have allowed misguided principals to over-schedule days for those unfortunate teachers, pushing them further behind on their work. They let us learn to do live lessons on Zoom, and then surprised us by banning that tool. They took Spring Break, then Passover and Good Friday. They send some of us to useless daily meetings. Instead of consistently supporting us, the Department has wasted our time; sucked our energy.

We are doing our best to engage our students. I’m fortunate. Most of my students want to be engaged. It makes my job easer than most. And it’s not easy. It’s hard. It’s real hard. And it’s just as hard, probably harder, for teachers across the city. Easily the worst problem? Kids without internet access. And don’t get me started on meeting students’ individual needs (from their IEPs).

Remote teaching? A pale imitation of teaching. We are not face to face, answering questions, explaining concepts, drawing students out. We are not making eye contact. We can’t encourage the same way. We can’t give “the look” to get them back to their seats, or “the smile” that let’s a child know they just did very, very well. We have had to forget about plans that had been honed over the years to provoke kids’ curiosity. A computer is not a classroom.

Nor are we teaching as much. We can’t. There is a limit to how much screen time (classes + homework) we can demand of our students. And what about students without access? There is a limit to how quickly we can grade on line (not quickly). Many of us have tried to turn our lessons into scripts that students can read. Apparently my lessons (can’t speak for others here) include one or two words that tell me what to say and write for the next 3 – 5 minutes. Figuring out the script was eating up hours, to cover part of the material from a 15 minute presentation. And now I’m speaking for others: at the high school level, almost every teacher I have spoken with has dramatically reduced how much content they intend to cover each week. I thought I could do about 80% of what I normally did. Not even close. 50% would be aspirational.


  • Trying really hard
  • Exhausted
  • Frustrated by the DoE, and by some administrators
  • Succeeding, with mixed success, in engaging students
  • It’s not the same thing as real teaching
  • Covering much less material

So when someone says teachers have done a great job, I appreciate the words. But when someone says teachers have got this figured out, I’m like wtf? We’re doing our best under horrible circumstances, but remote teaching ≠ real teaching, and I said horrible circumstances?

Someone with an office job at the UFT thought it would be important to put out a positive message about all the good work teachers do, and how we support first responders and health care workers. I understand that need. But I don’t understand how someone makes an ad with smiling teachers and kids, looking relaxed, looking like “We got this!” and doesn’t understand how insulting it would be to the thousands of teachers who “don’t got this” but are, exhausted and frustrated and still trying our best and still trying to figure things out and create structure and lessons and engage our students Every Single Day.

Thoughtless, inconsiderate.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 16, 2020 pm30 10:25 pm 10:25 pm

    Here here. You said it better than I would have … had I the time and energy to have tried. Thank you

  2. Mike permalink
    April 17, 2020 am30 7:59 am 7:59 am

    We definitely do not have this figured out.

    Sadly, most kids know that now with regents canceled, they will all be pushed along any way.

    In the suburbs, most districts are doing pass fail for the 4th quarter.

    The doe will follow suit.


  1. Teaching remotely? I can’t imagined. Jonathan doesn’t have to imagine it. – Fred Klonsky
  2. Threatened Cuts to Education Demand a different Response | JD2718
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  4. Who knows how to teach remotely? | JD2718
  5. Making Up Work | JD2718

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