Learning & Teaching
A Reflection by Mia Klinger. September 2020
The obstacles to returning to classrooms are not teachers and increasing the number of measures in the name of accountability, like having school personnel work from empty classrooms, neither improve teaching nor keep children safer.
Aging school buildings with their windows stuck shut for years cannot meet the demands of this moment.
This is not about teachers or their commitment to their work.
COVID-19 is the issue and districts must now reckon with the many inequalities that it lays bare.
Private schools are finding solutions; families with means are schooling through pods or finding the childcare support that allows parents to work. For most of our students, these are not options.
Some districts have been upfront about the difficulties maintaining the six feet of spacing between students that are needed to stay healthy, and they will struggle with children who cannot show compliance to this or other requirements because they are traumatized and reactive.
Our children are flooded by the fears of their adults- caregivers and teachers, who cannot provide the message that underscores all effective teaching, "You are safe here."
Outdoor space is only a temporary solution in New England, but temporary is not a waste of time or energy.
I had children in person in camp this summer. They were desperate for group experiences and for engagement. I was equally in need of their laughter, their energy, and the chance to do what I love- teach!
Administrators talk of having only limited outdoor space and describe their challenges with staffing. These schools are in cities rich with campuses and green spaces, many owned by people who have reunion canopy tents on hand that could immediately be given a new and meaningful purpose. The schools sit beside churches, temples, and businesses with parking lots and the additional rooms that are so in need.
There is a talented cohort of out-of-school time staff who are without buildings and maybe soon without jobs but, they are not short on mission. Let the classroom teachers focus on foundational skills and on students who are most at need. Let the OST people support the work of the specialist teachers with the mission of STEAM and social justice/social studies and the arts. They already do these things so well.
There will be a need to confront inequalities in pay, benefits, and resources, but that conversation is long overdue.
If we approached the task as the "village", "where" and "how" can be solved, even under these extraordinary circumstances. No solution would be perfect.
The challenges caused by the virus and the long history of disparities are real. But maybe, something would be learned that might lead us not back to what was there before, but to something that better and more truly met the needs of children and families.
School districts are faced with enormous challenges, but this is not about the teachers.
Throughout her career, Mia has been a special education teacher/administrator/consultant and an out-of-school time provider. She co-founded Daybreak, a program operated by the Cambridge Camping Association, and has been the director for the past 31 years. Her work focuses on children from under-resourced circumstances who demonstrate social, emotional, and behavioral challenges related to trauma and disability.
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