Trigger Warning: For many parents, this is a touchy subject. Everyone’s angry about the pandemic, and everyone is trying their best. This article may upset some of you, but we fully support our authors and their point of view.
Whew! 2020 has been one for the record books, hasn’t it? From the start of quarantine (I was in a state that went into full lockdown mode) to the new normal we find ourselves in now, life has been, interesting to say the least. There was a lot of “well, when quarantine is over” to “when outside opens back up” to just quiet acceptance that this is just what life looks like now. Everyone with masks on in public and shared space. People conscientiously trying to avoid crowding and others’ personal space. And tons of time with those closest to us: our family. I think we all need to take a breath, 2020 hasn’t been easy on anyone especially the education system. We need to really think about this, why are we Blaming the Teachers for Virtual Classrooms, when that was never their job?
The 2019-2020 school year came to a crashing halt during quarantine. All at once, our children got a crash-course in online learning. Teachers learned to navigate technology only used sparingly before March 2020. And parents…..Lawd, the parents…… well we were forced into a more than active and engaging role in our children’s education.
The New Normal
Not only are we parents helping with homework, we were teaching the lessons, answering questions throughout the day, making lunches, monitoring the bathroom breaks. We even became our children’s schedule keeper. From (pre-Quarantine) piano lessons on Monday & Thursday to (post-Quarantine) log in by 8:17am for attendance and sign in to your Math zoom lesson at 2:12pm. Some school districts were stricter in their requirements for the children and others, quite lax. But the summer came and gave us all a break from the enormity of it all.
At the end of the summer, we as parents had a decision to make in most school districts. Whether to keep our children remote full-time, allow them to participate in a hybrid model, or send them daily to school. We made these decisions in the best interest of our families. These decisions were not easy to make. Parents across the globe were anxious and uncertain. We were tentative and questioning.
- How well will the school be de-sanitized?
- What will remote-learning look like for our students?
- For households with children in different grades/schools, what support services are available?
- What technology is the parent responsible to provide?
As the new school year kicked off, we seemingly embraced our new normal and were ready to meet the tasks at hand to make sure our children didn’t get left behind. But then somewhere along the way the tide shifted. Somewhere, it became parents vs. teachers/school systems. Probably around the same moment the expectation of remote-learning and the reality of it, began to divulge on differing paths.
As the mother to a toddler, 7th grader, and a 12th grader (who is experiencing every symptom of Senior-itis); a now fully-remote employee, and the life-partner to a truck driver (gone all day most days, and some nights) I more than understand just how difficult a transition this all has been.
Parents Vs. Teachers
Most days I am fielding work emails, and emails from teachers and guidance counselors. I am balancing meeting my toddler’s learning needs with making breakfast, lunch, & Dinner. Structuring my own work day, and two different school schedules so that each of us makes our Zoom calls. I am an IT repair person when google classroom, google docs, CANVAS or VPN decide to let me down. I am budgeting our household expenses and rationing my attention between four souls who all need me and are feeling the effects of prolonged social distancing.
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And now more than ever, I am aware that our children take their cues from US – the parents. Sure, this is foreign territory for everyone, but our children are watching how we handle 2020 too. We say this readily and often but I’m not sure we really know how impactful we are in their lives. How much the way we handle the stressors of life, teach them how to navigate their own. How self-accountability, responsibility, and discipline are learned traits, not genetic.
Social media has seen more than its fair share of parent rants. Posts that include phrases like “I am NOT a teacher” or “I don’t get paid to do this” or “these teachers expect too much” or “how do they expect these children to learn like this.” And honestly, it is unbelievably disheartening to me. Try as I might, I can’t determine whether these statements are rooted in arrogance, privilege, a fear of failure, or maybe a combination of all. But what I do know is that it shows how far off base we have gotten in our roles as parents. Yeah, I said it.
Evolution on What’s Appropriate
In the US, the modern version of the school system was introduced in 1837 in Massachusetts by Horace Mann . By 1918, most states began requiring children to attend elementary school. And over the next 102 years, parents, it seems, took steps further and further back from being actively engaged in the systemic education of their children.
We, myself included, have relied on schools and teachers to decide what is appropriate to learn and when they learn it. How to best educate, what methods work best, how long should the school day last, hell, even what is an appropriate lunch for your child.
And the effects of this shift in control over education has been seen before now, disturbing headlines like: “TX teen banned by High School from attending graduation after refusing to cut dreadlocks”; “When School Dress Codes Discriminate” ; And “School Lunch Debate: What’s At Stake?”
Each of these moments to show how far-reaching we have allowed our education system to get. Schools are determining what children should eat, what they should wear, how they should groom themselves. But this isn’t a commentary to malign the school system. Because we, the parents, have let it happen. In small subtle ways. Only speaking up when it affects our specific child(ren). When is the last time you attended a BOE meeting? Or PTA meeting? Volunteered at your child’s school?
Let’s Be Honest
First things first, we ARE absolutely teachers. We are our children’s first and most important teachers. We are the most influential in their lives, always, whether we like it or not. Our children can either grow from it or recover from it. It is imperative that we stand in that gap and embrace this era. If we don’t know, let’s ask. If we don’t understand, let’s get help. But let’s not act as if this is not our responsibility. This is our divine charge. To teach, to lead, to instruct. Our abilities may be different and methods unique, but each of us is a TEACHER in our own right.
Parenting is not our profession. It is a life-role. We are given these beautiful tiny humans with their own personalities and are placed in the role of not only keeping them alive but cultivating an atmosphere where they can grow into their best selves. There is no salary, no compensation, no hand clap, no cookie. And honestly what other relationships in our lives do we compare to a paid professional to shirk responsibility? When my homegirls call for advice, I can’t say I’ve thought, “I’m not paid to be a therapist.” It is demeaning to our roles as parents to believe that we are on par with a person who holds the title of teacher in our child’s life for only 9 months in most cases.
Teachers are important. Absolutely. They provide us a privilege that we have taken for granted thus far. They take over a critical function in our parenting, to allow us to devote ourselves to other areas. But let’s never be mistaken. The function, the responsibility, the accountability solely rests with the parents.
And I promise this is as much for me as for anyone who dares to read thus far (bless your heart). Of all the moments to stand up and be your best self, of all the roles to stand in unapologetically, let this be it. Do not cower away in fear of failure or ineptitude. We are all struggling, collectively. What you don’t know, someone in your village does. What you can’t master, I guarantee you, the teacher will help. But you must ask. Do not criticize, Do not berate, Do not demean. They are here to support us in arguable our most important role. Utilize them as a resource but do not for a second allow yourself to believe that the ownness of how our children navigate this unfamiliar time belongs to the teacher or the school. It belongs to US.