I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.
Thoughts, Mr. Lecce?
So, Mr. Lecce, What Will You Tell Us?
Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce is reportedly going to announce whether or not March break - the mid-March week that students across all grade levels look forward to as a way to decompress from the rigors of the school year - will be canceled in its current form due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The big concern regarding letting the March break continue as it normally would is that families will travel. After all, COVID-19 cases spiked, at least in Ontario, in the two weeks after Christmas, which would seemingly indicate that people were traveling and definitely interacting in bigger numbers. These are two things that our health care professionals don't want to see happening, as concerns over the spread of the virus and its variants continue to mount. This is certainly a valid and important concern, as our numbers are currently on a downward trend and we don't want to see that curve bend upwards.
One of Mr. Lecce's arguments of late has been that students have missed time and March break would be a good opportunity for teachers to make up that time. In fact, CTV News reported in February 2021 that "Education Minister Stephen Lecce indicated the government is exploring whether the break week would be cancelled to help students catch up on learning they may have missed during the extended winter break in January."
However, since January 4, 2021, students have been attempting to engage with their education in whatever means possible through online platforms. Classes have been running as regularly as they can, and given not all classes work well through online means, that's a huge accomplishment. For instance, I'm an English and French teacher, and I have no idea what an auto class or a construction class might look like online, given it's so hands-on. You can't exactly ask the students to change the tires on the family car, as an example. Can you imagine what an elementary school scenario might look like online, particularly in kindergarten? I can't. I can tell you that I've been singularly impressed with my youngest daughter's Grade 6 teacher and her efforts to keep her students engaged. The fact that teachers have been pulling out every stop they can to design courses that are engaging and interesting for their students when their classes may not work well as an online course is incredible. The fact that Stephen Lecce, who is supposed to be minister of education and therefore fully aware that classes have been continuing online since January 4, 2021, seems to think that students have somehow missed time is incomprehensible. It doesn't make sense that he would suggest that students have somehow missed time and that March break is the time to make that up.
According to Toronto Sun writer Brian Lilley, who appears to be a staunch Conservative supporter, a decision will be announced that March break will be canceled in its current iteration, with the days being made up elsewhere in the remaining time of the year. For the most part, Lilley's article is thoughtful and well-balanced, until he suggests that teacher unions are essentially arguing against anything this government proposes, regardless of what it might be.
The problem is, many teachers are also parents, and as teachers and parents both, we've been expected to switch from one method of education to another fairly quickly. While I'm fairly tech-savvy and my kids are quite comfortable using a range of technologies, change is typically difficult for anyone, and it does take time to get used to whatever change that occurs. Change can also be quite exhausting, and as a teacher and a parent, we're trying to keep up with those changes, keep a positive mindset and keep our students and our own children motivated and help them develop the resilience skills that have become paramount throughout this pandemic. Also, we're dealing with the unique challenges that come with teaching a class both online and in class. Internet lag, equity issues - not everyone has the same access to bandwidth or technology, or the same access to time - and just different family situations that everyone is dealing with as a result of pandemic stress has led to challenges in classrooms, virtual or otherwise, that we've never really had to consider previously. A break is needed to recharge.
Let's also keep in mind that we cannot control people's decisions to travel, regardless of how well-intentioned that effort to control might be. I can no more tell my sister she can't go to London to visit her boyfriend than she can tell me what to do with my family. All we can do is control our own actions and movements and hope for the best in everyone else. Telling us that we'll all work through March break, with those days off to be put elsewhere into the calendar some way somehow isn't going to change that.
Would I be thrilled if the education minister announces that March break is canceled and therefore restructured this year? Absolutely not. Am I going to rant, rave, cry or react in any one of a number of ways if that announcement does come to fruition? Also, absolutely not. I can only do what I can to keep myself and my family moving forward through all of this and can no more control the announcement Lecce makes than I can fly to the moon.
Worrying about what the announcement will be will only throw more worry on an already-full plate, and who needs that?