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There’s nothing virtual about what goes on in my classroom | COMMENTARY

DeMarco Manning teachers aide, and Ryan Yates, teaching assistant, help students in a grade 5-7 classroom in the Henderson-Hopkins Safe Center for Online Learning. The partnership with the Y in Central Maryland provides space for 100 students grades K-7. Students are physically distanced in classrooms and as they move through the hallways. Baltimore City Schools will start bringing back a limited number of students in November.
DeMarco Manning teachers aide, and Ryan Yates, teaching assistant, help students in a grade 5-7 classroom in the Henderson-Hopkins Safe Center for Online Learning. The partnership with the Y in Central Maryland provides space for 100 students grades K-7. Students are physically distanced in classrooms and as they move through the hallways. Baltimore City Schools will start bringing back a limited number of students in November. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)

I hope you are having a great day. Let me tell you about mine: I will turn on my computer, review my lessons, test my technology and open a Zoom session. These will actually happen in the real world.

My students will sign in to my Zoom session, open their browsers to their Google classrooms, open their notebooks, and sign in to the other tools we use in our class session. These events occur in a real classroom.

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Then four times today for just over an hour, this will repeat. And my students and I will complete activities and worksheets. We will hold discussions and debates. We will make presentations and give feedback. These activities will really physically occur.

And my students will learn, they will discover new processes and new ways of thinking, they will become better educated individuals. And they will earn their grades and knowledge.

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I don’t know what virtual learning looks like, perhaps it is some game played in Roblox or Minecraft. There is nothing virtual in my classroom. There is nothing pretend in my classes. My students are seriously engaged in a process across a distributed classroom. They are learning, and I am teaching.

My classroom does not look like it did last year, but it is not pretend, and it is not virtual.

Distributed classrooms work when students, parents and teachers are supported by their district and recognized for the real learning and experiences happening. No it is not perfect and every student does not learn every lesson. But it’s not virtual. And it’s not new that some students don’t participate in the system.

The students that are falling through fall through every day. Hundreds of years of study and educational research have not found the solution. But in my classroom today, students are learning, and I am working to provide the best experience I can in my classroom, no matter what it may look like. And some of the students that were failing last year are thriving this year.

I object to your articles' and the CEO of Baltimore City Schools' description of my classrooms as virtual. They are not, it is not. I am a real teacher in a real classroom creating real educational experiences for my students.

Teachers should not be required to report to the school buildings until they are safe, with real HVAC systems designed to change the air in a classroom, with real plans for hallway transitions that reduce student exposure points, with real guidelines to protect teachers, staff, and students in the classroom.

David Cantor, Baltimore

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