challenges

A Cautionary Tale

The countdown is on.

A few weeks until summer ends and school is back in session…or is it?

My district ended last year with over 40 unexpected days of digital learning due to COVID-19.

Now it is 6 weeks later.  Numbers of cases that seemed to be trending down in my area have sloped back northward.  School districts are starting to try to make decisions about how they will open schools. Cue the special meetings, surveys, and plans (subject to change, of course). Also cue the opinions, the feelings, the exceptions, the arguments, the fears.

Colleagues have asked me many times throughout my career if I would want to become a school administrator.  My answer is always a fervent and unequivocal NO.  Times like this only magnify those feelings.  I don’t envy the public scrutiny that leaders are under in this seemingly no-win time.

I understand…

A significant portion of the economy depends on schools being open.

Many kids have their best access to food, learning, and social / mental health resources when they are in school.

Being taught (in person) by credentialed professionals is what we believe works best for most students.

At the same time…

Many teachers and school workers are themselves vulnerable to serious COVID-19 cases, or live with and care for other people who have those underlying conditions.

This virus is still new and developing, so science is still catching up to understanding what it is, how it moves, and so on.

Our schools are mostly based on kids being close together and moving with organized freedom throughout buildings and surrounding areas.

All the money and power at stake make every decision a politically charged and controversial one.

Then there are the logistics questions that come along with schools opening…

How do kids ride a bus?  How do they have recess? Can they sing? Can they play sports? Will there be field trips or assemblies?  Anyone who has worked with elementary school kids knows that kids love hugs and playing together which often involves contact.  How do I police that? I can’t even start about the masks, or what happens when a suspected case pops up.

Will all the fun stuff just be stripped away? 

In the end, I know this:

No choice will make everyone happy.

No choice will keep everyone healthy.

No choice will meet everyone’s needs.

We will be doing the best we can given what we know, and know that what we know might change at any given time.  Not an easy position for any of us.

I went to a branch of our local public library recently.  They opened up the buildings a few weeks ago.  This gorgeous, light-flooded, award-winning building, created for people to congregate and spend time reading and learning, is full of caution tape to keep people out or at least moving.

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I’m not sure there is enough caution tape to insulate school kids and workers from what we are facing. Our best protections will be patience, good faith, positivity, resilience, flexibility and showing kids and colleagues that we care about them in every way we can imagine.

 

 

challenges, perspective

Digital Doomsday

Without warning on or around March 14th school halted in my area due to the pandemic events. This meant digital learning began for students, mine included.

A day. A week. Two weeks. It’s temporary right?

The first few days teachers, parents and others adjusted. Nobody thought this was for the long term. Kids got behind in their work because they were never really given expectations for long term digital learning. And let’s face it, digital learning and homeschooling isn’t for everyone.

Teachers are doing the best they can virtually but if your child isn’t a kid who likes to work online for hours at a time you are screwed. I fall into this category!

Let’s take gym class for instance: you have to design a workout circuit just like a personal trainer. You have to type out the instructions and make sure you included all the requirements. Then you have to video tape it to prove you did it. What if your phone isn’t the latest and greatest? What if your family isn’t the physically fit type? Can they even help you? And don’t forget then you need to upload it. Even if you are self-conscious and don’t like to video tape yourself.

I can definitely say showing up to class to play with a ball and my friends is so much easier and at the same time it’s beneficial physically and emotionally, This is just one example of what my child misses. I can confirm this because I not only miss my workout time with friends, I miss the routine of it and the group learning.

My child is social. She misses her friends. She misses lunch chats. She will miss her yearbook signing this year. She will miss saying good bye to her friends. She will miss many experiences unfortunately like cheering on her friends at a baseball game. Giggling at the park with friends and sharing a hug. Touch is another thing missing. No handshakes. No high fives. No hugs. Those embraces are needed especially for those who struggle at home.

My child copes but that coping will have an impact as she transitions to high school. Her love for school may be tainted. Her rebellious side may come out due to all the frustrations of having barriers for a while.

As adults we wing it. As teens they are still learning. Their brains are still developing thus they may have impairments socially, emotionally or cognitively. The balance of school, home, activities is much needed part of development. I had not written about this part of being cooped up because it makes me worry not just for my kid but others. Families with violence, hunger or financial struggles.

I worry for the well-being of not only my kid but others who have different struggles. My child misses connections with people which I understand as I am a people person. What about the kids who need their special ed teacher and their accommodations to work? Can they adapt to a home school environment that might include a screaming 2 year old sibling? What about the kids who have a tough home life. Maybe even abusive home life. School is their escape. How do they cope?

School has been cancelled for the rest of the year where I am. Sporting teams have cancelled seasons. Obviously there is good reason but the impacts of this pandemic will have an effect on students, student athletes, friend groups, grades, attitudes at home and so on.

I often think of others who have it far worse than me. The single mom with two kids juggling work and judgment for taking her kids with her to an essential job because nowhere is open to care for them. The needs of the front line medical workers who have to face emotionally draining days and if they return home then become teacher or maybe the teacher role falls on the spouse who is already worried about their spouse on the front lines.

Can we catch a break? Don’t the powers that be think maybe three days a week is enough school given the environmental challenges? What about the teachers who have to adjust to planning digital days vs school days? What about staff meetings online and irate parents. I can only imagine the stress in that occupation.

I didn’t even mention nearly every household has financial stresses added to the mix. Homes today are under siege of stress from corona and all of its side effects that will hit the commoners hard in time.

Our mental health system is not prepared for the need that is about to hit as hard as the pandemic has hit schools, businesses, families and healthcare workers.

I predict a lot of PTSD in near future for many age groups.