By Marivir R. Montebon
New York – If he had his way, an exemplary teacher would have all schools doing online classes and keeping children safely at home, saying that the opening of schools in the fall puts everyone at risk.
“It seems remote learning is still good for our safety. It’s very risky,” said Ronie Mataquel, a teacher known for his good repute (he heads remedial classes and gets his students 100% passing the CUNY Placement Exam) at the John Bowne High School in Flushing.
Mataquel recounted that in March this year, teachers belonging to the United Teachers Federation went into a four-day training which resulted to the deaths of more than 50 teachers in April for having contracted the coronavirus. See obituary. https://www.uft.org/news/obituaries
“We went back to school for only four days for our teachers’ training. Ang daming namatay. (There were so many who died). That is why we are scared to come back,” he said.
John Bowne has almost 4000 students and Mataquel handles about three sessions. In 2018, Mataquel was a Blackboard Award honoree for his successful remedial classes for Grades 9-12 in Common Core Geometry, Algebra 2, College Algebra, and College Math Focus. He is also the president of UNIFFIED, a Filipino teachers organization in the East Coast.
“I heard a few teachers are retiring in the first two weeks of September because of fear. As for me, I have no choice. It’s our bread and butter,” he said.
Although nothing is set in finality, big schools like John Bowne will admit only half of the student population or less physically while the other half will do online classes. For teachers, it requires the same amount of preparation.
“I am not very scared for my kids than for my mother-in-law and father who are staying with us and are diabetic. I am still hoping that they will not open the school because it is putting everyone in danger,” he explained.
Mataquel said there is a need to prepare teachers for more interesting online classes. He said that his daughter’s teacher is a good one for she recorded lessons and created “doable activities at home.”
Mataquel said he was surprised how the older students, those in junior and senior high school, actually preferred home schooling and are doing good with their homework. But he said that he is just going to let his five-year-old stay home in the coming school year.
Gov. Cuomo said schools could reopen in the fall while NYC Mayor de Blasio said children can go to school for one to three days a week with masks and social distancing required.
Safety of school buildings are being checked, such as its ventilation quality and their capability to afford more medical staff per school.
Researchers said that being not in a school environment diminishes the child’s interest for formal learning. Young children may not be able to read, while adolescents are beginning to drop out of school. But to mothers, like Ann Beck of Forest Hills, “the life of my children is important.”
A nurse by profession in the Philippines and mother to two small elementary school children, Beck said: “We’re still in the early phase of understanding this pandemic. The study on children and COVID-19 is relatively unclear, limited, and have shown conflicting results. Because of that, I am not comfortable to send my children back to school. I am in favor of remote education for now. I will send my children to their classrooms if safe vaccine and specific medicine to treat COVID19 are available. My precious children are important to me than anything else.” # (Featured photo – Ronie Mataquel with his family during the online graduation ceremony of her daughter in May)