by Ellen Levitt (April 2020)
As a veteran New York City public high school teacher, I’ve worked with several HoH (hard of hearing) students, especially at Murry Bergtraum High School in Lower Manhattan, where American Sign Language was a Language offering. Some HoH students had signers who travelled with them from classroom to classroom, others didn’t, but they were a regular presence in my social studies classes in the 1990s. My typical strategy was seating these students within the front row, and I would make eye contact frequently.
When I was a high school student myself, I was in classes with HoH students (and others who had a variety of physical disabilities, including cerebral palsy and legal blindness) at Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn. Being around students who had different types of physical abilities made all of us more aware of how people adapt and achieve in their own manner.
Recently I interviewed S, who is HoH, a single parent of three school age children, and a Murrow HS graduate like myself (although our years at the school did not overlap). S has been documenting on social media, often humorously, what it’s like to deal with children during the Coronavirus pandemic and social distancing. His two daughters are ages 12 and 11, and his son is almost 8 years old.
Online learning, especially when it is the primary form of education, has pros and cons. If the child has regular access to a device, be it a desktop, laptop or pad/notebook, and has reliable internet power, then the situation is certainly workable. Students are getting their assignments online in a few different manners: often they get posted written assignments and email in homework; sometimes they “attend” live or pre-recorded lectures or interactive teleconferences, or watch assignments culled from the web, YouTube or educational websites.
For any parent, there can be difficulties in making sure the child or children are doing their work, understanding the course material, and being disciplined enough to get through material. Add in the different atmosphere, the changes in socializing, and related issues, and it can be difficult. How is it for a family of three, with a parent who is Hard of Hearing, even if the children do not have special needs?
Here are some of S’s thoughts on how the current social distancing limitations have impacted his family life and his children’s education:
1. What are some difficulties you have with getting your kids to do schoolwork and chores under quarantine?
Haven’t really had too many difficulties. They’ve helped out a great deal because we’ve all been home a lot. The main difficulty is getting the kids to stop playing Roblox or Fortnite, or watch YouTube during class. I’ve caught all three doing it, and it’s very frustrating.
2. How does being a parent with HoH impact dealing with teachers and other school staff?
It hasn’t really impacted my interactions with them. Probably because there isn’t much these days! In the past it was all on the phone, and I don’t “do phone” too well because I’m deaf. Now they’re all receptive to text, WhatsApp chats, etc.
3. How would you compare your children’s experiences with school to your own?
I went to school during a time when there wasn’t the internet. The internet didn’t really take off until I got to college, so it was a dramatically different time. My oldest loves doing (schooling) remotely, from her bedroom– in fact, a bit too much!
4. Other thoughts?
It will be interesting to see if any innovations come out of this that are carried over when we lift all this social distancing stuff because of the coronavirus. One thing that I think is overlooked is interactions with fellow classmates. That’s hard to do in a Zoom classroom with 15 other kids. However, my daughters have private chat rooms with their classmates (no teachers) so they can ask for help from classmates if needed. However, it’s not the same as person to person contact.
S has posted on Facebook about what the New York Times has labeled “the parental stress of remote learning” and general disciplining of children now:
“Homeschooling Day 14: Today’s lecture series consists of “No, You Can’t Wear A Balloon Giraffe To Class.
Homeschooling Day 12 Update: Sent kid to office. He threw a temper tantrum because I couldn’t look at the painting he made for me in “class.” I was busy cleaning up the paint that he left all over the chair, the dining room table, and the floor…
Today’s lecture series consists of “Watching YouTube Does Not Count As Homework.”
Homeschooling Day 9 update: Today’s lecture series is entitled, “You Can’t Play Roblox During Recess Because You Already Spend Six Hours A Day on the Laptop In Class and You Want to Spend MORE Time On A Screen?
Homeschooling Day 4: Our homeschool curriculum includes my lecture series entitled “Yes, You Still Have to Brush Your Teeth Even Though We Aren’t Going Anywhere.” Also, when you look around for the math teacher and then realize…you’re the math teacher.
Homeschooling Day 3 Mini Update: Had to suspend a kid for dress code violation (wore pajamas)
Homeschooling Day 3: Two students suspended for fighting. Teacher fired for drinking on the job.
Homeschooling Day 2: Trying to see if I can get kids transferred out of my class,
Survived Day 1 of Homeschooling. Barely. Lol. Playing Rummikub with the kids!
It is also tiring and challenging for S to do his own work (which is now online) while juggling his kids’ schooltime. This is parental engagement amped up ever stronger. The roles include not only teacher but counselor, cafeteria worker, technical support and more.
S and all other parents are concerned about their children maintaining their studies and not falling behind (or not too much). The short term and long term impacts will no doubt be analyzed in the months and years to come.