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Call for Communities to Collaborate & Leave No Learner Behind
Call for Communities to Collaborate & Leave No Learner Behind
By Leann Springer / April 3, 2020
Aside from the daily statistics on rates of infection, lockdowns, curfews, shutdowns, economic instability and more, It is really easy to get overwhelmed with all the information being dumped on us about educating our kids from home amid indefinite school closures. Every other post I’ve scrolled through in the last week seems to be a free subscription, ways to keep your kids busy and learning while at home, or some method to keep parents sane amid the chaos. It’s difficult to find anything out there without the words Corona or COVID-19 and now we’re adding homeschool! It’s simply too much information to sort through. My reaction to all of this Corona homeschool hoopla? Slow down, people!
My first concern is about the children who don’t have a stable home, whose families have trouble keeping the lights on and food on the table, let alone the luxury of internet service. What about the children whose home situations simply aren’t safe for them? After that, my mind rolls to our children with disabilities. Will schools plan for equity and accessibility in the designing of their new educational delivery? Will parents be asked for their input in the new educational design how to best meet their child’s unique needs? How will services for these students be affected? And of course, will parents have to shoulder the burden of delivery of the services and accommodations and modifications for their students who receive vital therapies at school or access learning differently?
I’ve been there, not amid a pandemic, however. Several years ago I quit my job. School simply wasn’t working for one of my children and I began educating him at home. It was a tough hit on our budget, but we had the luxury of being able to make it work. It was evident that things were going to take a turn for the worse if we didn’t get him out of an emotionally damaging school situation. We opted for an online charter school, and it was evident right from the beginning that while he would meet with the special education teacher occasionally on a virtual meeting platform, it was going to be up to me to implement a majority of the accommodations in his IEP in the day to day hours of learning. Children with more severe needs simply weren’t accepted in any of the online schools we utilized or looked at. It was a big adjustment for both of us even though I was used to crafting on-the-fly accommodations for students in my previous work. I don’t know that I could have maintained a job at home during that time - it was a lot. I loved the opportunity to work with and help teach my child, but it was a lot.
Over a period of about four years, I educated my son at home utilizing various online charter schools. One was one of the big nationally known names that heavily advertises, we used one less well-known online charter school in our state, and then also used our local district’s online option for a short period of time. His brothers also joined us during some of that time. While it provided an alternative to a situation that was not working, what I walked away with was an understanding that relationships are key to educating ALL students regardless of the learning environment. Many teachers either didn’t have or didn’t take the time to learn about my kids and their individual needs, passions, and interests. It’s challenging in a brick and mortar school let alone in an online format, but creative teachers know that their entire class’ learning hinges on this one thing and meet that challenge head-on and find ways to get it done. When there was a relationship and my kids felt valued and understood, they flourished.
As we transition to online or distance learning, now more than ever, relationships are important. In relationships between students and teachers, teachers have the challenge of creating a virtual community where each student plays a vital role. I remember my Psych 101 and Child Development classes in college - Maslow before Bloom. I think of the children whose only place of stability and possibly love and acceptance has been ripped out from beneath them in this crisis. Will they now get left behind? How can teachers reach them during this time? Then there’s the relationship between parents and teachers - our collaboration now is more important than it has ever been. Teachers must be able to check in with families to ensure that what they are asking students to do is feasible for families to implement. Conversely, parents have the responsibility to communicate to teachers and let them know what is and is not working for them. What about socialization during this time of social distancing and isolation? How can we ensure children can make and maintain friendships?
What is really being presented to our society right now is an opportunity. It is an opportunity to come together as a community where we leave no one behind because of their differences. We simply cannot abandon learners because teaching them is inconvenient. No! We know that communities thrive because of our differences. Each one of us has something unique to give this world. Let’s get creative. Let’s communicate. Let’s collaborate. Learning is going to look very different over the coming months, but we can do this as a community.
Let us collectively slow down. Breathe in. Breathe out. Our number one priority should be to give each other grace. Give your children extra hugs, make sure everyone gets outside a little each day. Don’t push anyone too hard - we are in uncharted waters where we can’t ask anyone to be an Olympic swimmer. Children can’t learn in an environment riddled with stress. You don’t need the latest, greatest app or program to help your children learn. While those tools could be helpful, I urge you to instead work on making connections. Collaborate. Go to those in your learning community who’ve helped you before. Send your child’s teachers an email thanking them for their quick adjustment and willingness to dive into this new realm with both feet and tell them you are eager to work with them to make the new process work. And please call us at PEAK if you need a little support, ideas, advice, or assistance. You can reach us at 719-531-9400 Monday through Friday from 9 am to 1:30 pm MDT or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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