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Jason Lionel Quesada
Head of Social Media
As a preschool and special education teacher, my wife has more patience in her pinky than most people I know have in their entire body. She’s used to the hustle and bustle of kiddos in the classroom, that’s what she signed on for. But not this. Due to COVID-19, she now walks into an empty school and remotely teaches three- and four-year-old’s in isolation for hours on end. The first week of school, her class celebrated three birthdays. My wife sat at her desk wearing a party hat, singing out loud by herself alone. “It’s disheartening to see them sitting in front of a screen all day long,” she told me. “Their friendships are diminishing. That gleam in their eye isn’t there.”
As her husband, I know the experience is just as disheartening for her as a teacher. There are no longer those “million little moments” she says are needed to get to know each student on a personal level. The face-to-face interaction she’s so passionate about is gone. “Distance learning will never be the same as real school, but we have to do all we can to keep going,” she said. “Our students need us.”
As a parent working full-time from home, remote learning can be just as challenging on the other side of the screen. Our sons, aged 10 and 13, are often bored sitting at a computer all day. I get the impression that their teachers are hesitant to challenge them because they’re not there in person to see what’s going on. I don’t always see what’s going on either, spending 9-5 (if not, longer) in a separate room using my own remote collaboration tools to get work done. I wonder how much screen time the boys have had on every device. I try to make sure they’re spending their time productively, but there’s only so much I can do.
That’s what I’ve been struggling with most; the feeling of not being able to do enough for my wife and sons when I know their experiences could be better. It’s my job as Global Social Media Marketing Manager at Avaya to share stories of how companies are creating experiences that matter using our communication and collaboration solutions. We just shared an amazing story from a school principal who transitioned his entire student body to an online learning program within one week of his state’s shelter in place orders using our cloud-based video meeting and team collaboration solution, Avaya Spaces. Adoption was simple for teachers and parents, and the school didn’t miss a beat with its planned curriculum.
Meanwhile, my wife had to go through 30 hours of training before the new school year even started. She’s expected to use multiple different platforms for tracking assignments and organizing her curriculum. Only one video conferencing account was created for her class, making it impossible to create small groups or individual education programs (which are crucial for her special education students). She told me if it hadn’t been for her friendship with the school’s IT admin, she’d be drowning.
With Avaya Spaces, she could create infinite “spaces” to address virtually every classroom and student need. She could create a separate “space” for students to have one-on-one meetings where certain information could be shared that doesn’t pertain to the entire classroom and instructional assistants can also join. She could have different “spaces” open simultaneously to monitor different students or groups of students (this is something she says her colleagues who teach higher grades would kill for). Older students could use the Avaya Spaces smartphone app to move around or go outside for more interactive learning (teachers and parents can also use the app to stay on top of updates 24x7).
Digital learning can be highly interactive and open new doors of opportunity for seeing, talking, and working with other students and teachers. What our children are experiencing right now is “crisis learning.” I’m in no way suggesting I have all of the answers, but as someone who heavily relies on Avaya Spaces for getting work done, I know the platform would make the online education experience a lot easier for my wife, sons and so many others. This situation is driving a new era of innovation in education that solutions like Avaya Spaces will be at the heart of. There’s no excuse for districts to not innovate to create experiences that matter for our teachers, children, and families.
To all my fellow parents, keep pushing forward. To all the teachers out there (including my incredible wife), know how respected you appreciated you are during this challenging and complicated time. Let’s stick together and continue to create meaningful experiences, in and outside of the classroom.
Learn more about Avaya Spaces for education, and to request a free trial.