On April 7, only a couple of weeks since we all started emergency online learning, I wrote a post on my person blog entitled Humanity First: Teaching in Times of COVID-19. I’ve just finished giving a professional development session via Google Hangouts to a group of dedicated teachers that came to listen to what I have to say about keeping the humanity of our students at the heart and centered of everything we do moving forward and that blog post captured the main points of that gathering.
The words that I typed on that blog post remain as important and valid as now. All I wanted to know was if my students were ok, if they had food and shelter. So much was stripped away from families during the global pandemic. The sense of safety, of stability, of structures and routines. Trauma upon trauma. Everyday.
As educators, the emotional, mental and physical health of our students is and should be above everything, the number one concern. If basic needs were not met, how could I be so worried about addressing certain standards? We never experienced a collective grief like we did during the pandemic. We need to remember our students’ humanity as we move forward.
The return of school in the fall looks very uncertain right now. But I do know this much:
We can’t go back to the way it was before.
Life before Covid-19 was full of inequities staring at our faces. Some kids have internet-access. Others don’t. Some kids had devices and others don’t. We need to work collectively to fix this broken system where the rich get richer, and the poor get punished. It’s called systemic racism and we need to name it, label it address it, and change it for once and for all.
Life before Covid-19 addressed students with trauma with temporary fixes and band-aids solutions, never addressing the roots of the trauma. Moving forward, we need to stop managing our students’ emotions and start thinking and taking responsibility for creating school environments as healing spaces for everyone.
Life before Covid-19 was full of teaching to the test. Life revolved around standardized testing. It’s amazing how we all realized how not important these assessments were when we were facing the big dilemma of our lives: staying alive. Why would we go backwards?
Covid-19 stripped away a lot of memories from our students and their families. And it also reminded us that we can rethink what truly matters in education: the safety of our children.