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This is not school, this is SLIFE

The governor of Massachusetts officially canceled school for the state for the rest of the school year, and everyone is responding in their own way. This news will likely bring about a lot of different and difficult emotions. I’m sure most parents and teachers expected this to happen, like I did, since so many other states across the country are doing the same. But that doesn’t make it any easier to acclimate or accept that this mandatory social distance quarantine really will be our status quo for the unforeseeable future. 

I’ve seen a few people I know starting to post on social media regarding the school closures. “School is not closed,” some have professed, justifying that learning is still taking place, but just in a different way. 

Well, I’d like to counter that argument. School is closed, and it will be closed indefinitely. What we are doing right now is not school. It is not distance learning. It is not e-learning, or online classes, or hybrid education. This is a response to trauma. This is triage. This is SLIFE, (students with limited or interrupted education.) And I know the teachers are working hard to earn their pay by staying at home and creating online learning experiences from scratch, but I must dissent. This is not school and these kids are not learning anything. 

As an educator certified in trauma-responsive teaching, I can guarantee that children cannot learn academics during trauma. What they are learning right now is coping skills, if we are lucky, and evasion tactics, if we are not. They are learning how to save a screen shot for their video in a Zoom with their teacher, so they can play with their dog instead. They are learning how to open new windows or hide their screens so they can google if it is legal to keep raccoons as pets, instead of doing their reading response journals. They have multiple tabs open, navigating from google classroom to google docs to google slides to google forms, just trying to figure out which assignments are due on which days. But improving their mathematical reasoning skills, reading comprehension and scientific problem solving? Absolutely not.

I know that we are all in this situation out of necessity, not by choice, and I realize teachers are trying to put on a happy face in order to be the pillar for their students that they always are. But as a stay-at-home mom who is overseeing the “homeschooling” of the 9-year-old I have at home, I implore everyone to just relax. This is not the time for complicated online classes that require hours upon end of screen time. This is also not the time to inundate these kids with busywork we’d leave for a substitute. This is the time to assign silent reading from an actual book, finally memorize their multiplication tables, or dissect a flower. Or better yet, assign them to clean the bathroom or cook a meal. Now those are lessons that would put this time cloistered in the house to good use!

To all my fellow teachers, we see you and we know you are working hard and working beyond your comfort zone. But you need not comfort or placate our kids with mindless, endless work online. If we want our kids glued to a screen, we’ll put on Disney Plus. I know everyone is attempting to maintain normalcy right now, but that’s just not realistic, since normal fled as soon as pandemic arrived. Instead, let us all relinquish ourselves to survival mode, and remember this will be over someday. Just not May 4th. 

See you in September! 


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