There’s more to school than book learning.
Of the many things which COVID-19 has taught me, that sits on my list of top three lessons.
Earlier this month the Oakdale Joint Unified released a tentative plan to return students 7-12 back to the classroom on a hybrid schedule. For some (me and mine included) it brought a deep breath of fresh air. For others, analysis and criticism of the district and the schedule quickly ensued.
Before delving further into my personal account, the true “mommy musing” perspective, it should be understood, this is not a time of one size fits all solutions. Parents have been presented with options. Independent learning, i.e.: remaining at home remains an option for families not yet comfortable with going back into the world. That’s not judgement, that’s simple fact.
The problem here, which many are either missing or disagree with, is close to a year ago we as Americans were each robbed of something at the hands of fear and a pandemic. We were robbed of freedom of choice. The opportunity to look at facts, weigh the risk and make a proper decision on our own.
Okay, I get it; the pandemic was/is a virus with potential to drastically affect the health and lives of many. Decisions were made based on science collected and data from other countries. What I love about the media, is the consistency of sharing the most extreme stories and numbers. Rarely, if at all did I see reports on patient recovery or benefits of exercising self-quarantine when exhibiting symptoms.
But I digress.
There’s a whole column I could pen just on the fear and societal paralysis of COVID alone, but this … well this is about our kids.
Now with close to a year of learning on the home front behind us, I use the word “learning” loosely by the way, it’s time to really look at things for what they are.
Prior to the pandemic multiple articles were penned as well as shared on the risk and negative effects of young people having too much screen time. Of the number of things noted the trend always seemed to note the negative impact of lack of socialization as well as risk of depression as students may struggle to decipher the real world versus the virtual world.
Before going forward I want to acknowledge the parent or family member reading this with a student who has excelled during this time. In short, that’s fantastic and hence the importance of the district offering choices. Sadly, that is not the trend or the majority of what our students are experiencing.
My two are a great example and in truth the primary reason I remain passionate about returning them to civilization. Prior to COVID each did above average work by way of scholastic performance. Now in fairness they are both teens, that in and of itself in “normal” times presents its own challenges. They’re kids after all not saints. Since the model of Distance Learning they have struggled both scholastically and mentally. Their grades have dipped south of “average” more than not and they have a mom who works from home.
In short, they are bored, frustrated and in some ways checked out. Hope is hard to come by when they believed they would only have to do this for the remainder of a school year, not the entirety of the next.
Now hold your judgement those with perfect children, this is not about your child, this is about the child which the media has finally started to report on. The child suffering from depression, isolation and suicidal tendencies. You see the trouble with all of this is that human beings are social creatures, not caged animals. Even the home school student has social interaction as part of their educational matrix. Yet when we started talking in “tiers” we were forced to accept a “temporary” caged animal status for our children.
Oh sure, they are able to see their friends and classmates via google classroom each day, give me a break. Think about this a moment, we have now taken the most insecure, self-critical group of humans and placed them in front of screens to stare at their image all day. Yes, yes I hear you in the back. They have the option of blacking out their screen, is that really an argument of acceptance? I’m just simply fed up.
Which brings me to the lead sentence and a “landing of the plane” if you will.
The past year has taught me that without socialization the task of education is jeopardized. Human interaction, generally speaking, feeds learning, the two go hand in hand. The outlet of self-expression, human contact, scenery change is essential to the nature of what it means to be human.
I’ve read the counter argument. I’ve read the thoughts on placing them at risk for what breaks down to two weeks of total learning on a hybrid schedule. Guess what? Call me selfish, but I don’t care.
These kids can reverse the negative trend of their grades over time. Reports are already out that colleges are re-evaluating acceptance and how they assess applicants. News flash, we shouldn’t be worried about college, we should be worried about our child’s overall health.
So open up the schools. Let us weigh the options for ourselves and shoot the dice in the way we feel best suits our student. This is after all public school we’re speaking of, so reinstate our freedom, because as for this mommy, I’d much rather see my kid beam onto a campus for two short days a week of promise than to continue to wipe tears from fear of what’s to come.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 209-847-3021.