REYNOSA, Tamaulipas – Secretary of Public Education, Esteban Moctezuma Barragán has announced Mexican students will return to classes on June 1, 2020. 

The move was announced at President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s news conference this morning, at the same time that the Public Health Undersecretary, Hugo Lopez-Gatell announced that the country was moving into Phase 3 of the COVID-19 pandemic, with ever-growing reported cases and pressure on the country’s health care system. 

Moctezuma asserted that the return would only go through July 17. In the meantime, the digital classroom arrangement in place throughout the country would continue.

David Eduardo Luna is a teacher at Cambridge Institute in Reynosa. Since mid-March, the school has been closed to normal classroom instruction. Instead the school is teaching its students through online education platforms. Luna, a veteran classroom teacher at the bilingual institute, admits that the transition from classroom teaching to teaching online has been rewarding: 

“I’vebeen immersed into this whirlpool of technology more than ever. I have learned a lot. Every cloud has itssilver lining,”he commented.

The elementary and adult education teacher also acknowledges some difficulties in teaching digitally:

“Our salary was reduced to half and the workload doubled. I’ll be glad to get back to normal,” said Luna who teaches classes of up to 25 students at a time with the help of Zoom.

At Tecnologico de Reynosa, Frank Gonzalez, educator, film-maker and musician, acknowledges similar challenges to teaching an online class: 

“Since you have so many students at one time, you don’t know which student is addressing you. Moreover, sometimes the internet connection is lost,” he explained. Gonzalez uses the On-Streaming platform.

Gonzalez’ director, Salomon Pecero, acknowledged the difficulties involved in teaching via the web: 

“Most students since they are young and technologically-oriented adapt to the change. The challenge is the lack of internet availability in many homes. Add to that the fact that not all teachers are very hi-tech. Some don’t know how to even turn on a computer,” he quipped.

In Nuevo Laredo, opera singer Dora Rangel, has had to adapt from the classroom to online teaching. The singer-educator, concerned with the pandemic long before any cases were ever reported in Nuevo Laredo, went from teaching in a rented classroom downtown to teaching via Facebook Live and other platforms. She explains that it is not an easy transition:

“Its very complicated to give classes online. It’s not like teaching theory or piano or any instrument, when you give voice classes. You don’t hear the student the same way. You don’t know if they are projecting.’’

In Mission, Texas, Mayte Flores, a science teacher in the Mission Independent School District, had a slightly different outlook than her Mexico counterparts.

“Well the most noticeable would be having to be in front of a computer (laptop) and trying to be a ‘teacher.’ I am used to seeing 20-plus students watching me closely, with a laptop that does not happen,” Flores said.

“I have also needed to ‘slow down’ significantly. The amount of work/lessons/etc I need to lessen. Its not like being in the classroom, where I can have a multitude of activities going on at once.’’

 Flores thinks it is actually easier to teach online, unlike her colleagues.

“I would say to ‘teach’ online is way easier, well when my internet is cooperating. I am working off of my hotspot from my cell phone using a laptop. The logistics of it on my side is easy. Make a video, upload some work, maybe some reading selections; all done in a few clicks,” Flores said.

“Being at school, in the classroom I can recall having to stay late because I needed to run off an activity, make copies in specific colors, laminate, cut apart, put in baggies, and then run through the activity in my mind to have it well planned out.”

Apart from what these local educators had to say, there has been growing pressure in Mexico to end online instruction. An on-line petition entitled “Fail the present school year,” encourages the national government to postpone 2019-20 until next school year. The movement, which has 446,020 signatories, also requests that there be no more online or television classes for the balance of the term.

“Given the number of persons using the different educational platforms such as Google Classroom, Nexus Zoom among others, there have been multiple breakdowns due to saturation. Moreover, careers that require labs or internships are suffering,” states the petition started by Juan Antonio Gutierrez on the website

“The stress level in students is accentuating due to the sudden change. Many teachers, not technologically savvy are simply referring their students to a platform or communicating only through email. Too many students don’t have internet access and are left out. Pre-school children don’t have the  technical skills to work online and in many cases nor do their parents.’’ 

Mexico has reported 9,501 COVID-19 Cases and 857 deaths. It moved to Phase Three today. The United States has confirmed 823,081 and 45,065. The WHO is reporting 2,553,853 cases and 176,323 deaths.

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