BLOG POST BY PTAC MEMBER ANN SCHMIDT
I sit here on April 1 and nothing about it feels like an April Fools’ Day. We are now in a shelter in place situation, schools have been closed down for two and half weeks and will remain that way indefinitely. What does indefinitely mean? What does that look like? This is all new territory for all of us. As teachers, we crave that normal routine, the interaction with students, the ebb and flow of the school day. Now we all sit here, in front of our computers trying to deliver instruction, continue and nurture our connections with students and try to process the ever-evolving information about COVID-19.
This past Monday, our amazing Digital Film and Video teacher had her students share their films documenting their daily lives during this shelter in place order. While many have been observing this order, our students have been adjusting to this new normal as best as possible. The sobering reality for me, was the students who shared their unique perspective during this time. Many lamented that their senior year was looking like nothing they recognized, others shared they were still reporting to work and even one who shared that their parents were laid off or had hours cut back. Their jobs vary from being food service workers at the retirement center, to the grocery store and other essential services that they are fulfilling. Many were asking for more employment to fill in the lost wages of a parent or guardian. One of my colleagues shared that one student apologized for not completing their work, as they were now working full-time to help supplement the family’s income.
As I reflect on these stories, it struck me that while so many remain home, doing what we can, we have students who are experiencing this traumatic time while their normal routine and social structures have been completely disrupted. What will be the emotional toll of this time, how will we as educators and school districts be prepared to address the needs of our students when social distancing is the new norm? Now more than ever, we need to put compassion first, strive to help students learn to grow and develop resiliency through this challenging time. Grades and content should be a far second during this national crisis we are all experiencing. Please don’t discount the perspective of our students and the lens from which they see all this unfolding. It is critical to keep this student perspective in the forefront of our planning as we move forward, not just now, but when that day comes and we eventually return to the brick and mortar school.
Pennsylvania Teachers Advisory Committee