Pandemic Pause on America’s Education System

De-cluttering Looks Different for Everyone, Including Education

As many American citizens have been purging their dresser drawers and closets in these past several weeks, a de-cluttering process has begun in America’s education system as stay-at-home orders have included the widespread closures of private and public schools alike.

There is a silver lining, however, even with the reports that “distance learning” doesn’t work or that students and their parents are suffering in the absence of “brick-and-mortar” institutions.

What if this COVID-19 pandemic pause has helped de-clutter in a matter of weeks what has taken decades for educators and administrators alike to bring to our attention as parents and caregivers of our American students?

To encourage more discussion on this topic of the decluttering of our American education model, I’m drawing on my own experience as an educator and federal government worker along with some of my colleagues who are currently active in schools across the country.

For the sake of this argument, I want to distinguish upfront that I’m not referring to the unfortunate segment of students who attend our American public schools and come from homes who are unable to feed, clothe, and equip their dependent children properly. Although it is a legitimate concern, it requires its own space and careful analysis to help formulate solutions going forward from this coronavirus crisis of 2020. In fact, the one benefit from the exposure of this societal ill is that many more citizens are aware of how fragile the economic balance is for many students and their families — hopefully that conversation will continue as to how to address those issues including have to hand out meals to students because school is not in session.

In the weeks since our nation woke up to the COVID-19 pandemic, countless parents and caregivers have found themselves floundering to figure out how to balance the needs of their children suddenly at home all day. What happened to everyone’s schedule that centered around their students’ school hours? It was gone indefinitely and with it came a vacuum that appeared to threaten students’ ability to continue to learn and thrive in their respective grades.

The good news has been that veteran teachers and homeschool parents extended their expertise to friends and local communities via social media and news outlets to help out immediately during late March and early April. Thankfully other public centers of learning like science museums, educational websites, and celebrities such as children’s author Mo Willems offered virtual classes and online educational sessions free of charge to homebound students. Even at this writing, virtual story times are being offered by local libraries or by beloved public figures such as former First Lady Michele Obama. These lifelines help flustered parents who have had to balance work at home and are to log their children into these free programs available while waiting for their respective schools to initiate distance and online curriculums in a matter of days. The “virtual village” stepped up to help raise our children during an unprecedented pandemic on America’s soil.

Then came the next phase of the stay-at-the-home educational process with the schools catching up and launching their virtual learning processes. The methodology varied from state to state, district and towns with one uniting factor that students would continue the course of their students at home without the familiar surroundings of their classrooms and teachers. While this virus has the medical frontlines occupied, America’s households became ground zero for our children’s education.

Reneé Flowers, a veteran teacher at Tullahoma High School in Tennessee writes, “While this situation is crazy — I also love it for multiple reasons: 1) the parents are involved at a level that they may not have been before and they get to see exactly what their children know and don’t know, 2) the communication between home has become more important than ever, and 3) these circumstances illuminate the need for data-driven decisions for students on an individual level.” Additionally, federal programs like “No Child Left Behind” and “Common Core” were trying over the course of decades to address issues that in a matter of weeks have come to the forefront of many American homes in a way that parents and educators alike couldn’t have conceived.

For other education workers, they have realized that being removed from the busy school environment has helped free up their time to focus on their students, whether they’re teaching curriculum or serving mental-health needs. Some faculty members may also be finding that they can better balance their own household’s needs. All the while also attending to their students in their respective locations using technology platforms such as Zoom or Google hangouts and such. Leslie Sporré, a guidance counselor who works in the Connecticut school system, shares that she is finding that this stay-at-home time is helping her know her own children better: “My first grader can work for 45 minutes and, in teaching him at home, I can give him frequent movement breaks and outdoor time so he is the most efficient and actually excited to learn. With all of the family time and physical activity and breaks built in, he is thriving!”

Again, it is worth mentioning once more that we should take a collective look at the gaping holes that we also see in our educational system when it comes to the ability of some students to thrive while others barely survive. A colleague of mine teaches in the St. Lucie county district in Florida and is reporting that out of her 20 students, only 12 are actually logging on for her online class session every day. “My students are so little that they rely on help and guidance from an adult to be able to participate in online school…when I finally get the parents on the phone, they tell me all their drama, toxic chaos and excuses why they can’t help their own child.” For this teacher, this moment in our American educational history has exposed the direct connection that can exist between home life situations and educational success. Children may be sharing even more of what their fractured homes are like when able to finally speak with their teachers whom they miss very much during this time of separation due to the novel coronavirus.

My hope is that this COVID-19 Pandemic Pause of 2020 will help generate some data and academic results to help both educators and the families of our American students find out how we can better serve them in our public and private educational processes. I’m sure most Americans can agree that this crisis has helped generate an untold amount of gratitude toward all educators of students that have had their school experience up-ended temporarily.

Final Note: Congratulations to the class of 2020, you are graduating during an incredible time and whether you can see it now or not, you will be stronger for it in years to come.

R.V.S. Bean

www.ceoofthehome.net

My Multi-Schoolroom at Home, Sometimes Cluttered

To All New At-Home with Schooling Parents/Caregivers: You are Amazing!

      

A Comical Meme: Author Unknown

Welcome to Friday of the first week of homeschool, online, virtual, or whatever new form of school you and your children just completed. This short blog piece is intended to congratulate and encourage you on your new journey as our American nation pulls together to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on those vulnerable in our population.

And, truly, I mean it when I say you’re amazing as this first week of alternative site schooling ends. We now have the rest of the school year to get through this “new normal”.

From a Homeschooling Veteran’s Perspective

When all this unprecedented school closures started occurring in my corner of the world here in south Florida, I felt the anxiety of all my friends and fellow parents/caregivers here and wanted to help with any weblinks or advice I could lend.  Last week is now a fuzzy memory of what our normal lives were as this week is like we’ve all stepped through Alice’s Looking Glass to a new dimension with the same characters but the landscape feels so different and otherworldly.

As this first week unfolded, I was impressed by the creativity of various parents/caregivers with setting up their school spaces versus their work-from-home spaces.  Some were able to carve out spaces from their living room or kitchen areas.  Others adopted the notion that where each student was comfortable worked well even if it meant sitting on their bed or in a cozy reading nook.

Also, I would like to thank many other moms who inspired my own program by sharing ideas of how to help others like having students write notes to those who are stuck in nursing homes without visitors or encouraging cards for the medics who are on the front lines of dealing with those suffering from the severe effects of COVID-19.

Even though I’m a mother who’s been doing the home- and multi-schooling thing for several years, I can get into habitual ruts and found this past week to be invigorating when reading about other households and how they approached this new world of blending school and work into the domestic home front. The comic relief shared between family and friends has also been a priceless and necessary help for our collective mental health.

Author Unknown: Favorite Meme of this 1st Week

Yes, Learning Can Be Messy

At risk of offering more unsolicited advice, I feel the need to tell parents and caregivers to not be too hard on yourself when you look around at the “school” area in your home and realize it’s devolved into a messy affair.  This may be mostly true for those who have elementary school and younger children in their midst.  However, it can also occur for those who are older and perhaps are having the opportunity to create and experiment in ways they were unable to in the conventional school setting.

Again, you’re doing great and perhaps having a mess is a nice visual to help us all honor our school janitorial staffs even more. Another inspiration for me this week was how many parents/caregivers started giving their children “life lessons” right away in how to help clean up in the home itself.  I will start applying some of those ideas in my own school area as I’m certainly not a good janitor.

As for the inevitable bickering that can occur between siblings, I’ve applied the same mantra to my own as maybe many of you have this week.  I remind my students that whether it’s their brother or sister is irrelevant, the conflicts they practice with them will come back again with their friends, future romantic relationships, work mates, and so on.  It helps to diffuse the current frivolity by presenting a vision of what the future holds for them one day.  Conflict resolution is a constant life skill that we can help our students recognize today.

Bean Homeschool Project Table

You Must Do What Works for Your Household

What’s truly new about this experience for many is that your children are now at home and not in the fold of the school building.  They’re now in your building.  The stress for everyone is at a level I’m not sure we can measure at this point.  Many others like myself would like to take this moment to say that you must do what works for your household.

If that means Spring Break starts this week, then so be it.  If that means your school meets on the living room couch, so be it.  If that means you let all your elementary school-aged kids out into the backyard for a few hours a day instead of sitting at a desk, by all means so be it. If that means no screens, great but if it means screens everywhere then so it shall be.

If there is anything I can share in terms of advice from my perspective as a homeschooling mother, it’s that having students at home means being flexible and ready to change the lesson plan and schedule as quickly as our kids have their growth spurts and mood swings.  We are receivers in a way and can only respond to help nurture and calm at times.  The school curriculum can wait if a snuggle or a rest period is in order.  

In short, you make the call on what works for your household and the students therein and no one is grading you but you.  Please give yourself grace. Remember that not only does it feel like your home is in a state of chaos, outside at the regular grocery store we see a surreal sight daily:

Publix Supermarket in Palm Beach County, Florida – March 16, 2020

We’re All in This Together

School districts and the various private schools have spent this week scrambling together their efforts to rewrite and create a new path forward for how they will decimate your students’ curriculum for the rest of this 2019-2020 school year.  We’ve all had to exercise patience under the most stressful of circumstances that our population has known, save that of the WWII generation.

In the meantime, it has been heartwarming to witness how parents and caregivers have pulled together to share ideas, information, and simply recognize what an incredible job school teachers and faculty have every day under normal circumstances.  I appreciate the sharing of ideas through social media of how to help others, online school and learning ideas, and groups with chats online to help parents and teachers alike.  Thank you all for what you’re doing to help not just those new to the homeschooling/virtual schooling arena, but also assisting us homeschool veterans.

In these abnormal circumstances, may we continue to remember that we’re all in this together. 

It’s also more important than ever to share with each other if anyone is struggling and needs financial assistance, help with new ideas for homebound activities, and just commiserating with sharing photos of our respective cups of tea or glasses of wine to celebrate the end of each week:

Whether it’s water, coffee, tea, smoothie, a glass of wine, or G&T
-do celebrate the end of each week!

I cannot applaud everyone enough as you navigate what works for you and your household as you figure out what facilitates your children’s learning at home—especially for those of you who must also delicately balance having to work from home, still leave home for work, or in some cases having just lost your paying job.  

Good strength to us all.

R.V.S.Bean

Some Random Links to Share:

http://www.marinelife.org

Another helpful article

https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2010/12/12/stress-and-the-high-school-student/the-home-school-advantage

Why Banning Guns and Buying Homeschool Guide May Not Be the Answer

Note: It cannot be said enough, may all our hearts and spirits continue to send love and pray for those affected by today’s shooting at the Connecticut elementary school.

TODAY

For most parents, today’s news will hit us as 9/11 did in that we will remember where we were, whom we were with and how quickly we wanted to get back to our children if they weren’t already physically with us.

In the quick moments I was able to share with other parents today I heard and read about a couple of things that concern me because it’s too reminiscent of that knee-jerk reaction we humans have when confronted with appalling behavior by another human(s).

TOMORROW

Gun ban or gun control will be the word buzzing in the aftermath of today’s tragedy in Connecticut–perhaps even more so than when recent senseless shootings have occurred in our nation like Columbine, Beltway sniper shooters, the Arizona congresswoman and the Kansas City Chief football player.  Unfortunately there is no true control over the sickness or outright evil that may transpire in one’s mind to execute such horrific outcomes in taking other lives.  Banning guns completely to the public in our nation may help cut down gunshot crimes and yet would also mean that the possibility would rise we’d be seeing crime scenes so awful that would make Edgar Allen Poe blush.

Homeschooling:  Although I am personally in favor of homeschooling, it’s not because of random, unthinkable moments like today and Columbine.  It’s understandable that many parents and caregivers these days are a nervous wreck when dropping off the children at a school that may have them be exposed to drugs, sex, violence, verbal abuse by bullies or some kid who was disgruntled and sick arriving to massacre.  These days there are so many choices for a child’s education that we cannot blindly choose homeschooling or any other option out of fear that our children will be vulnerable–again, we cannot control this random variable manifest by illness or pure evil.

FULL CIRCLE

There certainly needs to be a lengthy conversation on whether we need to consider various new regulations on issuing gun licenses and purchases but let’s not “invade Iraq” by trying to take away the right to bear arms.

The issue of safety at the educational institution is in a constant state of revision and it will continue to take the faculty, students and families of those students to find what is the right path at this time.

May we find a way to get through this for those close to the pain and those who hurt for them.

R. V. Saridakis Bean

Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"