Virtual Teaching Should Enhance Learning, Not Rob Kids of the Vital Classroom Experience

A Legislative Column from the Desk of Assemblyman Cliff Crouch (R-Bainbridge)

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all of us to adopt and make changes to our way of life. Businesses and schools have been closed, residents have been laid off and New Yorkers who could were asked to work from home to prevent the spread of this deadly virus. New York’s teachers have shown true dedication and resilience to their passion, continuing to teach through virtual classrooms ensuring that our children do not miss a day of their vital education. School districts and administrations across the state have rose to the occasion, continuing to provide crucial services to students and families such as providing lunch and other meals to those who need them.

Recently during one of his COVID-19 daily updates, the governor stated that he plans to partner with Bill Gates to “reimagine teaching” in New York, questioning why students go to classrooms and schools to learn. Cuomo has been under fire for this by teachers and administrators from across the state for these statements, and rightfully so. Teachers, who have been going above and beyond their job description, are now essentially being called obsolete by Gov. Cuomo.

While I believe that we can and should learn to adopt and utilize technological advancements to improve learning, nothing should ever replace the classroom experience. If anything, eLearning should be used in a way to enhance it and bring opportunities to rural and poor intercity schools that usually would not have the capabilities to do so. Nothing should ever replace the one-on-one experience of the classroom.

Moving to a model of distance learning as we have had to embrace during the COVID-19 pandemic would shortchange our students upstate who have limited, if any, internet service. How do we promote social skills, music and art education, laboratory experience for chemistry and physics, and sports like soccer, football, baseball, basketball, and wrestling? We are already seeing kids falling behind in vital communication and interpersonal skills due to overuse of cell phones and other electronics, by removing them from the classroom we could be further holding them back in this regard.

I know I can speak for my grandchildren, who have been saying how much they miss school and seeing their teachers and friends during this pandemic, many students truly enjoy attending school every day. It is a vital part of their life and plays a huge role in their development into young adulthood. Our teachers and schools offer so much more to our students than just an education, they provide mentoring and critical thinking skills to our youth that will have everlasting effects for years to come.

Everyone remembers that one teacher or coach that truly had an impact in their lives, that brought out the best of them, and encouraged them to be all you could be. Now imagine that teacher is no longer in your life and you communicate with them through email, or video services like zoom? The in-person relationship will no longer be there, the impact not nearly as great. I can’t imagine the world we would see. I think the governor should tread lightly on this issue and not be progressive at the expense of our younger generation.

Teachers are vital to the development of our youth. Classrooms and schools are vital to our communities. I don’t want to imagine a world without them. eLearning should not become the new Common Core. Teachers and students across the state do not deserve that. Let’s rather use it to enhance classrooms and help them flourish and grow, rather than be the end of them.