This is going to start out as a rant and then back off a little bit.
But I’m frustrated right now. I keep hearing the wrong thing and I’m not loud enough to change the narrative.
Typically at the end of summer, people are talking about going back to school and who their teacher might be and they are starting to think about tests and facts and what kids might learn.
But this isn’t a typical year. Families might have someone who is immune compromised and their kids might not be able to attend in-person school. Teachers might themselves be at risk for the virus or might have someone near them where they just can’t risk getting sick.
And yet, I go online and I see people saying “But I don’t want my kids to get behind.” “Where do I get materials for teaching grade level math” and “How much should I pay a tutor?”
I’m not going to talk about inequalities and disparities within our communities and the schools because that is another topic. I’m going to simply look at how much people are talking about their kids learning facts and how little people are talking about their kids learning to be part of a community.
Ok, here’s where the rant starts: The other day, my kids started tennis lessons. This is the first structured activity that they have done in about 5 months. There are 5 kids in the class (only 3 families) and they are all wearing masks and it is outside and they are all distancing themselves.
I started talking to the other mom about school and how crazy all of this was and she said that as long as things weren’t as bad as they were in the spring. I agreed with that, the spring was tough. She said that her son’s teacher only spent 20 minutes a day teaching last spring and that wasn’t ok.
So, I tried offering another perspective. I said that from a parent’s point of view, it may appear that the teachers are only spending 20 minutes a day teaching but we as parents won’t see that teacher walking other students through assignments and projects through video calls. We won’t see the conversations that teacher is having with students who are way ahead and keep asking for more challenging material. We won’t see her looking at each project individually and trying to differentiate for kids who just aren’t understanding.
“Nope,” the tennis mom said, “I don’t believe she did any of that- she just dropped the ball and barely taught at all. My son had very little to do in the spring. She didn’t create any online content worth anything and my son learned absolutely nothing last spring.”
“Ok,” I said, “I hear you. Not all teachers were meant to teach online. It isn’t everyone’s forte. But still, I think we need to support to teachers anyway we can.”
“Not only that,” She complained “But she also had covid so pretty much nothing got done.”
Someone close in your community got sick and your response was “What about me?!”
My jaw dropped and I took a deep breath and I said, “well… maybe that was the learning that was supposed to take place? Maybe the lesson was how to take care of other people and how to support someone who is still working but also got the virus?”
“Yeah, but we got the short end of the stick in the spring and I don’t want that to happen again.”
Ok. ok. I’m worked up again right now just thinking about that conversation but it is the same conversation happening all over right now again and again.
What is my kid gonna learn this year?
What if your child did not learn a single math equation but knows how to make soup to bring to a sick neighbor?
What if your kid doesn’t learn a single history fact but can talk about how they helped combat the virus by wearing masks and social distancing and sacrificing fun events when this becomes history?
What if your child doesn’t write a single paper but is able to deal with the disappointment and inevitable conflict of only playing with the same 2 or 3 friends for over a year?
What if your child doesn’t do a single science experiment but becomes part of a community that takes care of a teacher, writes kinds notes, and helps create fun learning content for their other classmates while a teacher is down for a couple of weeks recovering from a virus.
I realize that America was created (by white people) to be a nation of individuality; a nation based on freedom (for the privileged) and that these ideals are baked into our psyche whether we realize it or not. “What about me?” is a common thread throughout America. Or even, “What about my family? What about my child?”
I’m not expecting this to go away, I’m just hopeful that the pandemic can have some larger learning lessons beyond standards and benchmarks and that as a nation we can become something better.