Fractured Blackboards: 6 Ways to Support Students During a Crisis
Photo by Matt Ragland
The right to receive a well-rounded education is a cornerstone of a civilized society. It deeply saddens me that despite living in the year 2020, we, as a society, have failed our children. For decades, advocates have decried overcrowding, inequality of resources, teaching shortages, and food insecurity. The last seven months have magnified those issues 100-fold and launched the country into a catch-22 with no easy answers.
How do we protect student and employee health with overcrowded classrooms and dilapidated infrastructure? How do we enact distance-learning measures when families all over the country do not have adequate internet access or cannot afford to buy multiple computers/laptops? How do children receive a quality education when the teachers are off-site, and parents need to work? How do children thrive when they have limited access to food?
These obstacles do not have overnight solutions. They require a wide scale overhaul of public education as we know it, but much like our planet’s issues, we cannot put them off for the next generation to solve. Hard conversations, massive resources, and outside-the-box innovations will be required. Our children deserve to know that we value and believe in their contribution to the future. They deserve to have access and opportunity in every state, community, and economic sphere.
In the meantime, what can we do to help the children in underserved communities today? Here are three monetary and three non-monetary ways we can contribute to a child’s education. MONETARY OPTIONS: 1. Sponsor an Educational “Pod” One of the solutions some parents are utilizing is what is being called an “educational pod.” These pods consist of a specialized tutor assigned to teach a handful of children while the parents work. This method is an excellent choice for keeping students safe and engaged during the day. The issue is that, like so many things, the expense of hiring a full-time tutor alienates a vast number of families, causing those with economic resources to excel while the rest of the students, especially those in TITLE 1 schools, to fall behind.
How can we help? Since “pods” are the ideal option for families during the pandemic, do we have the resources to hire a tutor for a group of students from an underserved community? To support working parents, could we adapt our on-site working environment to allow parents to bring their kids to work during the school day? Could our companies support a “pod” as part of their annual charitable endeavors? 2. Provide Internet Services for the School Year For parents all over the country, the idea of internet service in their home is a “someday” luxury. Before COVID-19, many families relied on public libraries and other local hotspots to meet their kids’ homework needs. Now, parents find themselves facing the daunting dilemma of feeding their family or providing internet so their children can attend school. These households cannot be left behind.
How do we help? Can we work with community leaders or school administrators to identify families that could use our support during these challenging times? If our circumstances allow, could we pay for a family’s internet service for the school year? Can we advocate to improve internet infrastructure in rural and poverty-stricken areas? 3. School Supplies and Materials While experts and politicians debate the best time to send students back into the classroom, the fact remains that millions of parents have been out of work for months.
The added expense of required school supplies and needed clothing for growing kids is unachievable for some families.
How can we help? The simple answer is to reach out to families or schools and ask them for their required materials list. If we do not have the circumstances to purchase all the items on the list, maybe our place of employment, churches, or social clubs could help lighten the load for a family that could use the extra support. NON-MONETARY OPTIONS
The hard reality of this pandemic is that in an effort to keep us all healthy, many of us have experienced lay-offs, reduced wages, business closures, and other economic blows that have made it impossible for us to reach into our wallets and give to others. This painful reality does not mean that we have nothing to contribute. 1. Create a Safe Space for Kids to Share Their Emotions The pandemic, isolation, civil unrest, and economic hardship have shoved kids into the adult world of worries. In addition to the anxieties experienced in healthy homes, studies show a drastic increase in domestic violence during this pandemic. Without the legal support of “mandatory reporters” like teachers and school nurses, children are increasingly vulnerable to the predators in their lives.
Adding to this crisis is the painful fact that kids have experienced the death of a close family member(s), a friend(s), or classmate(s), and they continue to live under the shadow of more death on the horizon. They are enduring profound grief and fear each day.
How can we help? It is crucial that we do not overlook a child’s need to have a safe, healthy outlet to express their emotions. Remember that everything we are experiencing, our kids feel it too, but without the benefit of years of experience, that informs us that things can improve. Grief impacts a child’s ability to learn and thrive. Patience is essential in supporting them through their emotions. Even if a child cannot express their emotions in broad terms, our reassurance that what they are feeling is grief and that they can heal is vital to a child’s future development and overall mental health. 2. TEACH A FREE CLASS FOR KIDS The school year was chaotic, and summer was canceled. Kids missed out on their summer camp retreats, trips to the museum and zoo, and annual theme park excursions.
Now, students are returning to school with little more than a, “I counted all the tiles on my floor” for their “what did you do this summer” presentation. As winter approaches, parents are desperate for new ways to engage their kids while keeping them safe.
How can we help? Can we use a video-conferencing platform to start a book club for kids, teach an art or aerobics class? Could we create a fun, zero-contact neighborhood scavenger hunt for families—perhaps to help them explore their town and state’s unique history? Whatever our talent might be, can we share it with others in a way that helps families looking for resources? 3. Train Children to Show Respect for Others Terms like “super-spreader events” and “police brutality” have dominated the headlines for months. Images of brawls in supermarkets over face masks, and mass destruction and looting of businesses in cities around the country, replaced the sports season and the county fairs.
How can we help?
While millions of adults work tirelessly to address these issues, we cannot cut kids off from the conversation. We need to have regular discussions about these challenging issues with the kids in our lives. We need to be building in them the foundation for something better than what came before. We need to instill in them acts of compassion, humility, inclusiveness. The sooner kids realize that everyone does not have to think like them to be valuable, the richer their lives will be in the long run. Many of us are struggling with the far-reaching effects of COVID-19 and the injustices that have plagued our society for generations. Despite the burdens we carry, our children are the lifeline we need to improve and enrich our planet’s future. Change one life, and change the whole world is more than a tagline. It is a roadmap to innovation, community healing, and untapped potential. We may not be able to solve all of humanity’s problems, but when we support a child’s education, we give ourselves a fighting chance.