Parade (copy)

Fourth grade teacher Tori Sheads writes a message on her car prior to a drive-thru parade last week in neighborhoods of A.G. Richardson Elementary students. Teachers and students face a challenging time with the coronavirus pandemic.

Our challenging times continue. Teachers have gotten a crash course in distance learning. Kinks are being worked out and it’s improving every day.

Teachers aren’t able to hold students accountable as they would be in the classroom. It isn’t easy to determine what each student is struggling with. Teachers are finding that without personal contact with students, they are losing some ground.

The team of technology experts in the school system are the reason distance learning is working at all. They are among many heroes working for our students during this time.

While distance learning is working for some, it’s not for all. There are many challenges with this, especially in rural areas. Many students don’t have internet access. The school system has set up access to free Wi-Fi at certain schools, but there are students who cannot get to town to use it. They’re feeling very isolated since they don’t have the ability to connect with others.

Many are learning that our families depend on the school system for more than education. Some parents depend on schools to feed their children two meals a day.Some families are unable to get to town to take advantage of the food being offered. Teachers are very concerned about these students. Individuals are providing food for some of these students on their own, if they are aware of the circumstances.

Parents also need schools for day care. Parents are now out of work and struggling to figure out finances, as well as trying to support their children academically. There are high school students who don’t really have time for school work. With parents out of work, they’re working all week to assist with paying the bills.

We have students with special needs who regularly receive support services that they can’t receive at home. Parents simply are not qualified to manage this. There has been an increase in calls reporting domestic violence, as was anticipated. There are students who are traumatized in these abusive home environments. Our schools provide a safe haven for these children.

We are learning new ways to cope. Students with internet access are able to take advantage of increased free virtual access to museums, theater, national parks and more. This may peak an interest that they’ll investigate in person later. Parents are finding different ways to engage children that our normal busy lifestyle prevented. We still need that human social interaction, which will return at some point.

We will return to a “new” normal when everyone realizes that by staying home and staying away from each other we can stop the spread. If you look at history, our ancestors also didn’t abide by guidelines. During the Spanish Flu in the early 1900’s the quarantine continued much longer than it would have had people listened. Is it so difficult to see that we have the power to bring this to an end sooner rather than later?

We can all learn from these challenging times. Will we learn that all careers are important to maintaining our way of life? There are no “low, menial jobs.” With children home, some have realized the challenges teachers face daily.

Will we allow our teachers the time needed to get students back on track after this or will unreasonable expectations be placed on them again?

Will we learn to appreciate our time with family and friends? Will we be more supportive and less critical?

The catch phrase has been “We are all in this together.” Hopefully, we will realize that’s true not just in a crisis, but every day.

Elizabeth Hutchins is a former educator and Culpeper County

School Board member.

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