I feel like I’m filling out endless surveys and taking part in numerous town halls all about remote learning and the future we all face. I can say that remote learning was remote, but far from learning.
My son had just come off yet another bad education experience. What could go wrong, did. So, kiddo was not in a good mental place to begin with, and then COVID-19. I tried. I really tried, but it was a mess.
At first, during the early stages, I was bombarded with resources. All learning games, YouTube Channels, and virtual tours. None of which my child will do. In fact, the idea that my son doesn’t learn well with education games, and videos is in his IEP. I was left sorting through things and finding a path to something literally tangible my son was willing do.
When ‘real’ learning started I had to be all things wrapped into one. Most of all I had to be an accommodations expert. In real time, I had to modify assignments. For example, since my kid wouldn’t sit and watch a science video, I watched the video and then I tried (mostly failed) to provide the lesson myself.
My son and I read together, did math together. Mind you I might be able to do 4th grade math without thinking too hard, it is a special skill to break down the concepts and teach math. Lucky for me, I have an expert mathematician in the house. A luxury most families don’t have.
I took the ELA book The Hope Chest and turned it into a social history lesson on life between 1918-1920, complete with parallels to today’s pandemic. At the end my son summarized the time by saying it was racist, dangerous, and disgusting, I felt I had accomplished my goal. Mind you History was once upon a time my field of study. I was teaching, make no mistake, and it was difficult.
For the most part, my son got bits and pieces of something. I have no idea if he will retain anything. All the while, things like social skills I feel are slipping. Since these skills don’t come natural, my son needs practice. Practice that just can’t happen under the circumstances. Transitioning back to the ‘real world’ will take a herculean effort for all those involved.
In a school board meeting on April 28th Karen Hamilton of Wake County Special Education Services was quoted on Twitter saying, “Special Education Services don’t look the same as they did before March 13, but are comparable & proportionate in light of the abbreviated & altered school day now being offered remotely.” I can not disagree more. The services didn’t feel or look even remotely comparable. For one thing I was the services.
I shepherded my son through the end of the semester. I have a kid who isn’t in the best place mentally. I’m faced with regression of skills due to trauma from a bad education experience at his last last school compounded with all the challenges this virus brought up. We have no real data, and IEPs are suppose to be based on data collection. My son needs a team of support, and really what he got was just me.
So, as we discuss the fall there are those like me, who want an in person option. Mental health in my family is as important as physical health and both are related. I know that I was an insufficient educator, OT, and speech therapist. I also know that what worked was because of love and trust.
I worry what the fall may bring. First I know that so much will be dictated to us. The state of emergency must be lifted or we’ll all be home. Next, we have a NCGA who like to write laws about our start dates, when they are last people who need to be making strict education policy. Finally, we need to have sufficient funds to make any of this a reality. I’m not even convinced that we have enough funds to go back in the classroom no matter the capacity.
I recognize the risk to our educators. I also must lift up working parents. I couldn’t keep a job and do remote learning with my son. I know some families who just couldn’t manage. This felt temporary, but as fall approaches, it feels like something we are going to have to address. If kids are at home, they need to be safe and learning. How do we ensure that is happening? How would working parents manage a rotating schedule? If kids are at school how do we keep them safe as well as all those who work in the school safe too? It is a mess.
I don’t envy decision makers. I know from the class size experience that to reduce class sizes we needed more educators than we had, more space than was available, and more money to pay for it. I think this rings true for opening up in the fall.