This is Really Not Going Well

The opportunity to collaborate with and learn with teachers in most states, in rural, suburban, and urban districts, in public, private, and charter schools has truly been eye opening in this pandemic. It’s astonishing how variable states, districts, schools, and individual teachers themselves have responded to this challenge. It feels chaotic, unreasonable, and, frankly, harmful to perpetuate already inequitable educational spaces in the face of a global pandemic.

Some teachers are teaching on Zoom for 3-6 hours a day, some are posting assignments and links to web videos, with Quizstar on Google Classroom and Canvas and Blackboard. Some districts and schools are pausing formal education for all while completing needs assessments of their school community in terms of internet access and devices. Some are requiring synchronous meetings, firm due dates for grades, new material. Some are all asynchronous, all review work, optional participation. Some schools are delivering packets weekly, some are doing online read alouds, some have added reading logs with the intent of encouraging reading at home.

Our educational system is deeply inequitable, always has been. It is designed to exclude kids with disabilities, Black and Brown kids, kids living in poverty, kids with two working parents, kids who need more support to learn, and on and on. Maybe I should say who it is designed for . . . White middle/upper class neurotypical people. And they will likely continue to do well in pandemic school.

I’ve said consistently in the three weeks we’ve been in this transition to focus on keeping it simple, ensuring social emotional connections and wellness first, and remembering that families are coping with job loss, illness, insecurity, increased stressors, child care demands, and more. Homes are not schools. This is not homeschooling. This is maybe some version of hack schooling coupled with a lot of unschooling but mostly it’s just survival. And kids are in the center of all of this mess. They’re powerless, they’re confused about what is expected of them, how long it will last, when they’ll see their friends again. The expectations of schools on kids and families vary so widely from those who have had zero communication (me) and those whose schools are expecting families to replicate the traditional school day with zoom, assignment due dates for grades, and required attendance. The inequity in all of this is staggering.⠀

We don’t have national educational leadership. We don’t have anyone providing teachers of kids with disabilities guidance and support on how to provide services and supports to kids who cannot access their learning online, or how to navigate distance learning for students with disabilities who need more or different supports. We have districts and states taking wildly different approaches with not enough communication. Even within districts and schools, families are navigating multiple messages, competing priorities, and unreasonable expectations.

This is really not going well at all.

As the numbers of confirmed cases and C19 deaths increase, now may be the right time for us to consider what’s reasonable and ethical in a pandemic. We could end the school year now. We can focus on care, meal delivery, social emotional support, movement and wellness, connection. We can assess learning when it’s safe to be together again and determine then what interventions, reteaching needs to happen. We can ask our reps to suspend standardized high-stakes testing for the next two academic years (then forever after that) to allow schools time to guide kids and teachers through this shared trauma.

We could use this as a chance to reset, reevaluate, reassess. Give teachers paid opportunities to engage in meaningful professional development like shared book readings, inclusive planning, and essential dialogue about the inequities in each of our spaces and how we’re going to come back from this with a focus on anti-racist, inclusive pedagogy. We could use this as an opportunity to design something better. We can partner with our families in this work. We can ask them directly how we can support them, what they need, what would be helpful and alleviate stress in this moment. We could design a system that values each of its members.

We’re all in this together.

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