There are few positives that come from COVID-19 from an education perspective. Millions of students had their academic, athletic, and social lives interrupted. Not only have students fallen behind but they are also missing out on critical services like food, counseling, and in many cases, medical attention. But if you had asked someone to give one pro of switching to e-learning a month ago, they probably would have said something around discipline and suspensions. One would assume there would be no reason to suspend students as they are already out of school, and there is only so much you can do in a Zoom room.
However, this has not totally been the case. As soon as school returned, there were reports of students being suspended. Some for violating the “norms” teachers set in their Zoom rooms. Others for playing with toy guns and issues of similar nature.
One could certainly question the validity of over-policing student behavior in their own homes. And while that is a fair conversation, the real question is why we are suspending students from e-learning in the first place?
For context, I have never been one of those people that feels like there was never a place for out of school suspensions. Obviously, some schools take it too far. We shouldn’t overuse them, but in my decade of teaching experience, I can think of a few reasons we should … and virtually none of those reasons apply to e-Learning.
A classroom is a delicate environment and sometimes maintaining a culture conducive to learning unfortunately necessitates removing students. That flies out the window with online learning. Students are not in the same place so fighting or being a danger to other students physically is out the window. Zoom and other applications like it will only allow students to do what the teacher allows them to do. All features that can be used to disrupt like chat and video can be turned off. The applications that students complete their work on are largely devoid of any features that allow them to interact with students outside of permission from the teacher.
Cyber-bullying through school applications is the only decent reason that I can come up with for temporarily barring a student from e-Learning, but even that is pushing it, because as mentioned above, most schools have administrative features that can prevent such interactions.
Suspensions are obviously down, but they should be virtually non-existent in the virtual setting. Do the right thing.