'This is really impacting our students'
By Anthony Wright, as told to QCity Metro Staff Writers
When the first case hit in the United States and started spreading around to different cities, that’s when I realized, okay, this really may be a pandemic. I had less than two weeks’ notice that we would transition to work from home.
I had to make a lot of adjustments to still be successful with my students. I had to make sure I had adequate technology, childcare, personal protective equipment and resources to complete my job at home.
I’ve always said I wanted to be a counselor. I want to help people in my community and people who look like me understand where they came from. I want to help break generational cycles of non-productiveness and stereotypes. As a people, we come from a great background of culture, education and a legacy of excellence.
One day I got a text from a student who told me that he was not going to be able to attend class because his mom died from Covid. I was like, “Whoa, I need to call you.” So, I called him and he explained that his mom had passed so his focus was not on school. That’s when it hit me, like, okay, this is real; this is really impacting our students. I was worried and concerned to the point where I stayed in contact with this student every day. Up until now, I’m still in contact with him.
More questions than answers
We’ve never experienced anything like this, and I had a lot of questions about what was happening. How are we going to be safe? How are we going to protect ourselves and our families? I was just feeling uncertain.
The most difficult part was not having answers to the questions that students had…or that I had. What’s life gonna be from this point on? How can we protect ourselves? We didn’t have the answers.
I had to get acclimated to using Zoom, the platform we use to hold classroom meetings. That was new for me, and new for students as well. We had to also get adjusted to assisting parents, because some parents have a technological deficit. Some don’t have access or know how to access and use the technology properly to support their kids at home. So, everyone involved had to learn something new. Then there was a fear of the unknown.
The biggest question from my students became, “When are we going to be able to come back to school?” Lot of our kids don’t do well with online learning. A lot of them need that in-person, one-to-one contact.
Attendance definitely became an issue. It’s not just my school, but the whole entire district, especially with the high school level not getting online to be accounted for.
Some high school students had to work to help support their family during this tough time. It’s like, either I choose school or choose work to help my family keep a roof over my head. So, we’ve seen a lot of kids who either drop out or are just not showing up and attending at all.
Seeking the missing
We developed a street team, which is just a bunch of staff members who call or go out to visit kids who are not attending and try to figure out how we can get them to engage in school in this remote setting. We also do phone calls to parents, just to say hello and let our constituents know that we are there for them, that we’re in this together.
We’ve had quite a few success stories. A lot of kids have re-engaged. We have even helped some students set success plans to either continue school here or look at alternative settings while still completing their education.
Students have recently returned to in-person learning, but they still have the option to remain full remote. Although lack of social interaction has been a big concern for our children, nearly fifty percent remain remote.
My greatest concern is the lack of humanity around our school board. We are so focused on getting back to normal and not really realizing how this pandemic is impacting families and communities and neighborhoods. So many lives have been lost.