How are we going to make sure not one student or educator is ignored, neglected, or left behind?
We have discussed the impact of this pandemic many times. We all know the effects, whether it be emotional health, physical health, or mental health-related, can be widespread and long term.
I don’t think anyone is denying this.
We talk about mental health check-ins and having important conversations in safe atmospheres that support transparency particularly for students and educators who have really had to adjust to a totally new norm.
But are we doing enough?
At some point, we must move past a generic, “How are you coping?”, and advance into being proactive and creating systems and plans to make sure not one student or educator is ignored, neglected, or left behind.
Children Are Our Future but First…
We know that children are our future. We also know that parents are the first and primary source of information, encouragement, love, and stability for most students.
Then there are educators. Educators often interact and support our children in ways and on levels that we as parents do not have the opportunity to do. We are not incapable, but we are often times bias and we often wear many hats, which forces us to multitask. Sadly, there are many things we may not catch as we would if we were looking through the lens of an educator who sees them daily in a classroom setting.
We simply cannot address the mental state of our children without first addressing and assessing the mental health of their teachers. You don’t have to be an educator to know some of the challenges that they have expressed during this pandemic.
Our educators feel:
That they lack support
That their quality of life and health is not important to administrators, school boards, and parents.
If you take a bright teacher full of amazing ideas and strip them of their security in the education system that they are honored to be a part of, what are you left with? We must address the needs of educators during this pandemic and post-pandemic they must be heard. Our children’s success in school is dependent on it.
Do Not Ignore Facts…
Many times in education we don’t want to be political, we don’t want to have heated conversations, and to be honest, we are quick to gloss over and cherry-pick certain facts in order to keep the peace.
However, discussing the long-term impacts of COVID-19 and how it disproportionally will affect minority students is not political, it is common sense. The conversation must be had. Look at the facts, be aware of the numbers. Minorities, particularly African Americans, are dying disproportionately at higher rates than any other race. Equally so, their access to quality healthcare, quality tutors, and quality virtual education support systems and hubs are all different compared to their white counterparts.
So, what are we going to do?
We must make sure every school system has a revised and updated plan of equity that will be adhered to and enforced by every teacher, support staff, and administrator. Everyone must do their part without established equity our children will fail.
Where Are They?
We are going to stop simply asking how a student or teacher is doing and we are going to figure out and assess where they are. Where are they emotionally, where are they mentally, where are they academically, what are their thoughts and concerns?
We need the answers to these questions. We can start by considering:
Mental Health Evaluations: A quick screening by a mental health professional can help us better evaluate the mental capacity of every student and teacher.
Individual Needs Met: I have personally said hundreds of times that the only education that is successful is individualized education. Cookie-cutter education never has and never will work. This pandemic has made my convictions even stronger. Once we are aware of what a student or teacher needs to succeed we have to break the status quo and give them what they need!
Routine Counseling Session: The experiences, fear, and discouragement that this pandemic has brought both educators and students are not going to go away overnight. To ensure healing, growth, and overall success we will really be depending on qualified school counselors to follow up and make sure that there are no lingering concerns and that the students truly can adjust back to a normal life post-pandemic. We won’t know how they are doing or where they are in this process unless we routinely ask.
Dear School Administrator…
Business as usual has ceased. There will be no getting back to normal without your intentional actions. How you meet the needs both mental, emotional, and academic of your students will be your legacy. You must rise to the occasion. Even when this is over, it’s not really over.