School Buildings Will Reopen And We Must Be Prepared

By HOPE MORALES
Executive Director
Teach Plus New Mexico

When our schools officially closed in March, I immediately worried about the students I knew would struggle with access to technology and those with challenging home lives.

I didn’t worry about my own three children in the school system. I’m a former classroom teacher with training. Most days I work from home and understand the world of technology related to virtual settings. We will be okay. I thought.

The first couple of weeks of virtual learning seemed to work out well for all three children. Their teachers have created plans for their classes. I adjusted my work meetings around their class meetings. We ensured everyone had passwords and were able to access their online work. I considered us prepared.

I quickly learned that sharing one computer among our family was going to be a challenge for all our schedules. I can’t always change my meeting times. And I learned that each child works best at different times during the day. My kindergartener, who has worked so hard to get over her shyness, has fallen back to her quiet self when engaging with her class online. She’s not volunteering information, which was a huge accomplishment she made during the school year. I have to remind her to speak up so they can hear her quiet voice online.

My 5th grader, who has always excelled in school, has not enjoyed working online. She misses the in-person collaboration with her peers and teacher. The strong work ethic she displayed in class has shifted to being required to complete her online review.

During the school year, my son was being taught by long-term substitutes in some of his high school classes, which was already a challenge. Now even that connection is lost as he communicates with his instructors through the use of technology. I can assist my daughters on their assignments, but high school math is a challenge for me.

Our local educators have reached out to support each of my children in a variety of ways: emails, video meetings, surveys, class chats, and more. The truth remains, however, that despite everyone’s best efforts, the reality is much more challenging than many people imagined, myself included. There are the stresses I have as a parent, an advocate, and as a human. I am naturally a planner and a problem solver.

The current situation across our state and nation has more questions than answers and more rules than opportunities. How do we keep everyone safe? When will the governor’s orders be lifted? When will students, my three included, get to go back to school? What does the future look like for the small business owners and oil field workers across our state? How is the state’s budget going to be impacted?

When I stop and think about just “how good” my family has it―we have our health, our home, our jobs, access to technology―I go back to those who are not as well off as we. I think about the children whose parents do not work from home or who have lost their jobs, and about the parents who are trying to help their children and don’t have formal education training and still have other responsibilities. I think about the teachers who are doing their best to instruct a class or classes of students and tend to their own families. I also think about our leaders, who are having to make important decisions in a new environment without much time and limited resources.

I call on our state leaders to keep stakeholders engaged in their efforts. They should continue to communicate with people in the field who are implementing plans or being affected by them. Information cannot be shared one way and dialogue must be a major part of our process.

Although this time is challenging, I know that through partnership with my children’s teachers, each of my children will be okay. They are eager to start back at school and will continue to be successful in their academics. We have to start planning now for how we are going to ensure all students are going to be successful.

School buildings will reopen and when they do, we must be prepared to support the needs of each child and ensure this challenge does not turn them into a statistic.