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‘Less is more’ for online learning, Pinellas teachers union president says

Educators shouldn’t overload students and families as they navigate life in a pandemic, says Mike Gandolfo.
Mike Gandolfo, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, posted a video this week telling teachers to remember "less is more" while teaching students online.
Mike Gandolfo, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, posted a video this week telling teachers to remember "less is more" while teaching students online. [ YouTube ]
Published Apr. 9, 2020

Pinellas County teachers union president Mike Gandolfo has a message for educators as they finish the second week of remote learning: “Less is more.”

In a video, he praised the county’s teachers for going “above and beyond” to put lessons online after schools closed because of the coronavirus. He told them not to worry so much about rigor, but rather focus on what children need as they weather the effects of the pandemic.

“Just living through this is a learning experience we can’t provide with a textbook,” Gandolfo said. “Life lessons are always more important than textbook lessons, even if they are not covered on a standardized test.”

He urged teachers not to overload students with work and to make assignments creative and thought-provoking. He told them to reach out if their administrators push them to do otherwise.

Related: Keep up with the latest in Florida education news with the Times Gradebook

“If (parents) have to spend time helping their kids with their work, let it be work that brings families closer together and initiates conversations between parents and kids,” Gandolfo said. “We cannot be adding additional anxiety and stress to parents or children.”

He noted that students might not let on that they’re having a tough time, so it’s up to teachers to check in and “find ways to bring those thoughts, feelings and emotions up to the surface.” He suggested teachers ask kids to write or make art about what they’re going through.

Many educators are working overtime to learn new programs, drop off supplies to students and communicate with parents and guardians to ensure families have what they need, Gandolfo said. With schools closed, district officials are forced to trust teachers to manage their virtual classrooms.

“This could very well be a game-changer from the toxic micromanaging ... climate that currently exists between administrators and educators,” he said. “All we have to do is what is right for our students, and administrators will learn that we’re professional educators, and we know what we’re doing.”

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