Back to School, Back to Reality

The options for how children will attend school has been a heated debate in recent months at public school board meetings across the nation. Organizations such as the National Parents Union have participated in parent surveys to elevate parent voices in the conversations around how schools will reopen and provide educational opportunities for learning this school year. 

See the parent survey here:

In Atlanta, our schools have returned for face to face learning. Some parents are concerned about the capacity of staff to actually support teaching and learning in the schools due to exposure to COVID-19. Other parents have ongoing concerns about equity and resources for digital learning. 

The biggest question is are we going back to the same reality before the pandemic hit? Unfortunately, in many public schools, we are. Since school has started back in Atlanta, many parents, teachers, and students would say yes.

One of the most common connectors of the concerns expressed by stakeholders is that schools went right back to business as usual, extravagant back to school events, not enough resources for wrap around services, and teacher burnout the first week of school. 

As we’re in the second year of teaching and learning in the pandemic, parents and students are mostly back to fully in person instruction. However, due to increasing COVID-19 cases in children and teachers, Hybrid instruction, which is a mix of remote and in-person learning, is becoming more of norm for most. 

One fact is that reimagining school is a topic that educational leaders haven’t spent enough time on building and exploring. I’m currently teaching in a hybrid model in which we have students rotate days that they participate in virtual and in person learning. We also provide an option for parents and students who have severe health conditions to be engaged fully in virtual learning classes.

This is why I firmly believe that teachers and educators who are already experiencing burn out are feeling this way because the return to back to school as normal isn’t simply going to work. 

Many of our students who experienced learning loss in the pandemic already had academic challenges. Even in virtual learning, the disconnect of public schools with families on effective ways to continue learning at home or to be engaged is attributed to the learning loss of students that was already taking place before the pandemic. Lack or limited resources as well as access aren’t the only contributing factors of learning loss.

The traditional, same old method of opening schools that we see each year during back to school time also plays a major role in why so many public schools are struggling right now with in-person, virtual and hybrid models of learning. Innovation isn’t simply providing school supplies, making the school look good and talking about equity. We have to improve the structure of teaching and learning and wrap around support in order to reach every child.

Back to school this year should be more than a wake up call to why we must reimagine how we do school.


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