July/August 2021 Issue
June 14, 2021

Union calls for end of 'simultaneous teaching’

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United
hybrid teaching

Simultaneous instruction.

Double-duty live-streaming.

Whatever you call it, NYSUT leaders say it’s time for the practice to end. It’s unfair for districts to expect or require educators to teach in-person students and remote students at the same time.

“It’s been nothing short of a nightmare. A lot of tears and exhaustion,” said John Caulfield, president of the Levittown United Teachers.

“Concurrent teaching was a desperate response to the pandemic crisis — but it’s time to get back to what we know works best: in-person teaching and learning.”

That was the consensus of hundreds of local presidents who came together for an online dialogue earlier this spring with NYSUT officers.

Local leaders said teachers were simply expected to turn on the camera and broadcast from their classrooms.

There was little training or adequate equipment provided.

“Teachers just did the best they could under very difficult conditions,” said Caulfield, a school counselor.

“Many found that switching attention between remote and in-person learners created an impossible situation where both groups of students lose out.”

As districts start planning what school will look like this fall, NYSUT is strongly advocating for an end to simultaneous instruction.

“We need the State Education Department to set up guardrails,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta.

“Let’s not have an a la carte way of teaching.”

“We believe it’s bad practice and bad pedagogy,” said NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango. “It’s simply not a good use of technology.”

DiBrango noted teaching strategies and preparation are obviously different for in-person and virtual students.

The logistics can also be distracting for students in both settings.

“Teachers may be the ultimate multitaskers, but concurrent teaching is pushing the limits,” DiBrango said.

“It’s unreasonable to expect teachers to do both at the same time.”

If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s the value of in-person learning, DiBrango said. “That faceto- face interaction is best practice,” she said. “Students perform best when they have daily interaction with educators and their fellow students.”

In addition to pushing for an end to concurrent teaching, NYSUT is urging state policymakers to phase out remote learning as a primary instructional practice.

“Remote instruction should not be required to be offered and if it is, it should be a separate program where educators will be specifically dedicated to the remote learning mode,” DiBrango said. If remote learning is offered as an alternative, details should be subject to collective bargaining. Districts should set clear eligibility guidelines and time frames, so that remote instruction is not being done for the wrong reason or for convenience, she said.

Districts that lack the capacity to offer a remote instruction alternative can turn to BOCES, which contract with component districts for services.

“We’ve had a high level of success with it this year,” said Donna Walters, president of Erie 1 Professional Educators Association, at a BOCES union leadership meeting earlier this month. After contracting with Springville-Griffith to provide remote education to about 35 high school students this year, her BOCES is expanding its eAcademy to offer middle and elementary education this fall.

“They’re hiring additional staff, including full-time instructors for art, music and physical education,” she said. “All teachers are remote-only and housed in a common area to encourage collaboration.”

It’s important for the union to be involved, Walters noted. During the initial planning stages administration attempted to assign one math teacher to cover grades 7–12 for about 300 remote students. “I just laughed like I was watching a comedy routine,” she said. “I said stop and think how many preps that is.”

A number of other union leaders said their BOCES are looking at offering remote instruction services.

“There’s been a lot of conversation about this and it’s important we have clear parameters from the state,” said Andy Jordan, president of BOCES United Professionals at Monroe 1 BOCES. “If we’re going to do it, it must be done right.”