I understand the need to get the economy up and running. I even understand the need to open up bowling alleys, nail salons and tattoo parlors. With a shortfall of support for small businesses from the federal government, we’re scared about our livelihood and maybe even where our next meal is coming from. We feel ignored.
Another segment of the population that is largely being ignored is our young people. Those kids who are currently holed up in their rooms, presumably engaged in e-learning, haven’t been talked about all that much. When kids were sent home in late March, the idea was to keep them, and the rest of us, safe from the spread of coronavirus. We wanted to stop the spread of the virus, but stopping the learning process was certainly not part of the plan. As most schools will probably not be back to “normal” until the fall, we’ve resorted to a hodgepodge of electronic worksheets administered by teachers who were never prepared for such a situation.
Anyone who has ever spent a full day in the classroom, either as a teacher, paraprofessional or substitute teacher, knows how excruciatingly difficult it is to work with a room full of young people. If you’ve never had the pleasure, I strongly encourage you to sign up to be a “sub” for a day. I can assure you that after such an experience, once your migraine headache subsides, you’ll most likely send your child’s teacher a bouquet of flowers and never again disparage their need for a summer vacation.
When the pandemic hit, not only were kids sent home, but teachers were charged with coming up with some home-baked educational bread to keep the minds of their students functioning. Many tech-savvy teachers have done a great job which once again validates their need for greater pay. It also magnifies the lack of preparation and foresight by many whose very job it was to prepare for such worse-case scenarios.
Moving forward, will we be prepared for another such pandemic? Will this pandemic permanently alter the way we educate our children? Health concerns combined with other safety concerns already impacting schools may very well change the face of traditional education.
Providing the necessary hardware for e-learning is only scratching the surface. Internet access, which is a privilege and not a right for many, is also a key component. A stove only bakes a cake if it’s connected to gas or electricity. Not everyone has internet access which leads to even further educational inequities. Do we need, or even want, our schools packed with hundreds of kids every day? If we don’t, can we effectively provide alternative learning? Will what we know as day-care centers for the very young evolve into educational-care centers for school-age children as an alternative? These are all questions to ponder posthaste.
As I watch protests by those demanding to immediately re-open the economy, I can empathize. People want to return to their normal. They also need money to survive. Seeing signs that read, “I need a haircut” might have a greater impact if they read, “my kid can’t read”.