St. Johns County teachers stressed by demands of simultaneous learning

A St. Johns County classroom
A St. Johns County classroom (WJXT)

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – One week into the new school year, some St. Johns County school teachers are saying they are not happy with how things are going so far.

The head of the local teachers union said Tuesday the current set-up is leaving them overworked and frustrated.

The main issue, according to teachers, is simultaneous learning, said Michelle Dillon who heads the St. Johns County Education Association. That’s when a teacher is instructing students in the classroom and streaming classes online at the same time.

“We knew it would be rough,” Dillon said. “We knew it would have challenges. I had no idea how very challenging it would be until we completed the first week of school.”

The issue for teachers, Dillon said, is juggling students in-class while at the same time overseeing students learning remotely from home. She said doing both at once is just too much for instructors.

“The sheer amount of time it takes to communicate with parents to answer their questions, their emails, the phone calls about assignments about technical issues, is what is taking up the majority of our teachers time,” Dillon said. "They are taking the work home with them for hours, they are not spending time with their family and friends.”

During negotiations with the district, the union agreed to the synchronous learning model as long as the recorded classes would not be used in teacher evaluations. That agreement was ratified by the school board Tuesday.

But, Dillon said the first week of classes revealed a host of problems with the format.

“Based on what I’ve heard over the Labor Day weekend, our teachers are going to have a nervous breakdown or they’re going to look for another profession,” Dillon said.

Dillon brought these concerns to the school board during its meeting this morning.

Before Dillon’s comments to the board, Superintendent Tim Forson praised teachers and expressed an understanding of their struggles during the first week.

“I can’t think anyone would have ever thought, well, ‘I want to be a teacher, and I’m going to live in an environment where some of my children — you know, it’s the Jetsons — that some of my children are going to be here with me, some of them are going to be somewhere else, and I’m going to teach them all the same thing,’” Forson said. “It just sounds so glamorous and so great, but it is incredibly hard.”

Forson said it is up to him and the district to remove as many barriers as it can so that teachers can teach and get through the first part of the school year.

“Teachers are going to have to have the ability to fail at something to try to make it better,” Forson added. “So there are days that are not going to work. And we have to have the ability to allow that to happen, and the patience to allow that happen so that we get better. It’s the only way we get better.”

Dillon said the union has options and is going to continue to communicate about the next steps.

She also said the biggest priority right now is bringing the district to the table for a discussion about the challenges teachers are facing.

News4Jax asked the district to weigh in on Dillon’s comments, but there has been no response yet.

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