Dear School Districts,
I’m writing to let you know that some students’ failure to complete work is not about access, it’s about disruption and anxiety about the future. Some students have parents that are still working who do not have the time or energy to then teach their child lessons that are to be learned at school. While some students may do well with online learning, others do not. As the teachers know, because they’re in the classroom with these children, all students do not learn the same.
There are so many children in America that are on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), which federally mandates that they are taught in a way that works for them. How many of these children are slipping through the cracks of this new system put in place?
Some school districts are doing online classrooms and students get to not only socialize with their peers through this format, but also ask questions to their teachers in real time. Other school districts are pre-recording voiced over PowerPoint slides for children to glean information from before completing multiple assignments. Yet, there are other school districts providing zero video assistance; only assignments and “thorough explanation and feedback” to all students. This does not set up anything that would resemble an equal learning experience.
The disadvantage is not just related to access. While most schools are breaking their backs and banks to provide laptops for all of their students who need one, it doesn’t account for the trauma that the students and their caregivers are experiencing. While we parents would love nothing more than for children to get an education, right now the majority of us are in survival mode.
We are witnessing tantrums we haven’t seen since the toddler years. We are wiping tears from our teens and preteens eyes. We are crying ourselves when they are out of eyesight. These times are not normal, and certainly not optimal for children to learn new concepts. Most of us will come out of this heading to the closest therapist’s office, adding in a failed grade level due to circumstances outside of that child’s control seems unnecessarily cruel.
Working from home is not the same as just being at home, and not all parents have the luxury of doing so. There are parents who work the front lines of this virus and they’re having to return home to then become a teacher and housekeeper. There are parents who have lost jobs trying to figure out how to keep their lights on while they stay up every night attempting to get through the cluster f**k that is unemployment right now; they do not have the mental space to also be concerned about their children passing to the next grade.
This pandemic that has swept the world is not the time to pile more onto parents who are doing their best to keep everyone alive and well at the end of each day. This isn’t even accounting for the families that are dealing with the tremendous loss of a loved one due to this virus. We have got to do better, and when I say we, I mean you school districts.
Every school district across all states need to get on the same page. We have some states passing all students and vowing to figure it out and catch students up next year, while still providing them with optional remedial learning. Some states are graduating all seniors and mailing their diplomas, while other’s are still making them do the work in order to pass. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures in grace. Let’s figure out a way to make it as fair as possible for all school aged children across the United States. Let’s focus on making sure our kids are mentally healthy, and the pressures of completing school assignments are not breaking them and their parents. Let’s let them breathe.
Every student that is not turning in work is not lazy, they don’t have lazy parents, and they certainly aren’t just giving up. They are overwhelmed. They are traumatized. They are regressing. They are looking for safety. They are looking for normalcy. Nothing about this is normal. Lacking access is not the issue.