The 2019 -2020 school will definitely be one for the books. This has certainly been a rocky year for me professionally because of the death of a student, certification challenges, and closure of school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am concerned for the parents of my students. Decisions are being made that impact the health and wellness of our communities and economy. The COVID-19 pandemic will also have drastic effects on the academic growth of students. Georgia school leaders are making their list and checking them twice in order to prepare for a smooth closure of the school year through virtual learning support for students and parents, but we simply aren’t ready.
Public schools in Georgia have families and students struggling with virtual learning because we haven’t mastered ways to effectively engage families.
Way back during 2019, I began writing blogs for EdLanta about the urgency school districts in Georgia should be taking in engaging families in ways to effectively continue education at home. It seems like we are always taking one foot forward and five feet back to reform traditional public education systems. Unfortunately, family engagement has not been a top priority for school districts. Family engagement programs have to be more than hour data meetings and snacks, photos, fundraising, and discipline hearings. Parents have been asking for equity, improved educational programs, and better educational outcomes for students since my work in education in the early 2000s.
Why aren’t school districts prepared for virtual learning?
I’ve read several comments from parents in emails, Facebook private parent groups, and on other social media outlets about the frustrations of parents concerning virtual learning. I’ve been empowering and coaching students’ parents on my caseload and students’ parents in my homeroom class in ways to keep their children progressing along. The school I teach special education at, 7 Pillars Career Academy, has an online curriculum. Our scholars are still able to complete lessons and move along the grade level with no break of lessons. We too, like many traditional public schools, are adjusting to virtual learning and teaching solely online.
Teaching and learning virtually is not easy for children. We must be mindful of this transition for parents. It’s a busy schedule for me as a teacher to have my lessons prepared, participate in classes, provide services, and support and then still do the things I need to do for self and home. I listen to parents’ frustrations regarding the transition to virtual learning. It’s challenging doing full-time work from home while engaging children who are different ages, in various grades, and who all learn differently.
For those who think this is just an extension of summer break, learning is far from over this year! Our scholars must continue to be engaged while following social distancing rules and safety requirements for COVID-19. Parents can get support directly from their teachers. Several non-profits and Metro Atlanta teachers have partnered together to do live sessions and webinars on virtual learning. School leaders, such as Ms. Guillen of 7 Pillars, have YouTube videos with tips for parents. There are resources available to support parents in continuing education at home through virtual learning.
I’m asking parents to stay connected, for teachers to continue sharing resources, and school leaders to continue advocating for plans to recover and reclaim the time needed to ensure our children don’t fall behind academically.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.