My heart goes out to fellow educators, parents, leaders, and especially our children as we ended the 19-20 school year abruptly and without true closure. March through May of this year caused a lot of disappointment, anxiety, and uncertainty for our students and families. COVID-19 has exposed the inequities within not only the healthcare system but those within our educational system as well.
In Atlanta, parents and residents have been advocating for equitable educational services for Black and brown children for decades. Take a moment and imagine what Black and brown parents are facing in rural areas if this battle is still being fought in the Black mecca, home of the civil rights movement, and what T.I. so eloquently refers to Atlanta as “Wakanda.”
COVID-19 has created a heightened sense of anxiety for everyone!
The pressures of keeping a household together during higher unemployment rates in Georgia, no available childcare for those being called back to work and knowing schools are being rushed to open in August with no correction of pre-existing issues in Georgia public schools. It’s beyond stressful!
Many Black and brown parents are highlighting the need for more social-emotional support in public schools by having more counselors than school resource officers.
The fact that parents are marching, protesting, and gathering signatures for a petition demanding equitable educational services shows that our public education system isn’t taking the SEL needs of Black and brown students seriously. We cannot truly be at ease with schools introducing brand new models for learning and not addressing the anxiety that comes with this.
As a special education teacher, anxiety in students isn’t discussed or even considered in professional development. However, I can assure you that it is more real than we think. In fact, when we look at the numbers of Black boys in public schools in educational programs, many of them have IEPs that reflect ADD and ADHD as their diagnosis.
I’ve seen in public school districts in Metro Atlanta that our schools don’t know how to properly identify depression, anxiety, and emotional behavior disorders in Black children because we don’t have the right people in place to support them. A lack of educators of color who can identify with and most importantly support children of color through social and emotional issues is a huge indicator that schools are going to have many more Black and brown students fall between the cracks.
This past school year, I taught Special Education at a charter school in Clayton County. The stress was overwhelming many times building a department on my own, servicing the students, connecting parents to ways effectively to continue learning at home, and most importantly, correcting the many issues overlooked in student diagnosis and accommodations.
On top of that, we implemented a hybrid model of learning through an online curriculum. Our model changed several times the first semester to ensure we were meeting our students’ needs. One of the things that came, as a result, was heightened anxiety attacks that lead to students acting out, bullying, becoming depressed, and developing lower self-esteem due to academic setbacks.
We drive academic excellence as a passport for making it out of the hood. As a key factor in beating the ills of society and getting out of the poor or lower-income communities where we live.
Think about the everyday trauma our students face while now having to adjust to hybrid models of learning, managing physical and vertical assignments, not having social outlets with talking to peers during lunch, field trips, while worrying if they’re going to be killed by walking to the store or bus stop. This impacts our parents and teachers, too!
We cannot forget that we are all going through this together and anxiety will impact us all differently.
Here are ways to lessen the stress and anxiety of students:
- Having more counselors in schools that cops helps heal student trauma and lessen anxiety
- Adopting virtual learning curriculums like iReady, Google classroom, and virtual learning programs where students can see themselves reflected will help make the hybrid model relatable
- Providing all parents with literacy programs for students to use at home that infuse literacy, visuals and real-life applications that will help boost Lexile scores
- Ensuring that each school has counseling support for each grade level
- Creating in-person and online mentoring programs or clubs for students
- Infusing reflection times for students to address real-life fear and concerns regarding what’s happening in our society
- Training teachers on (Individualized Health Plan) IHP, ways to identify depression and how to engage students with learning exceptionalities
Jason B. Allen is a Special Education Teacher in Clayton County, Georgia. He is a member of the Association of American Educators (AAE) and an AAE Foundation Advocacy Fellow.
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.