My family is lucky because virtual learning is okay. But it’s just that: okay.
My daughter likes her teacher and participates in class often. We have stable internet and her school provided her with an iPad. My daughter’s teacher also gave us a tote bag filled with supplies that we can dig through during class, to pull out birdseed to make a bird feeder, stones to put in an imaginary dinosaur habitat, or plastic binoculars so she can explore her world outside of class. My husband or I sit with her while her baby sister occasionally crawls over to see what’s going on.
But this isn’t enough. At best, my daughter gets four hours of live instruction each week. She also takes virtual classes offered outside of school, including ballet and creative movement. But I feel like she isn’t getting what she needs. And that makes me feel like a failure as a parent.
I get that it is tough to keep a pre-k-4 student in her seat for longer than 30 minutes at a time. But virtual schooling isn’t satisfying or fulfilling for her. And we’re always behind. Her teacher puts things in the app for us to check out, but between virtual school and work, my husband and I struggle to keep up. Recently my daughter’s school schedule changed, making it yet another thing to remember. Is she losing out because we are too burnt out to remember to log in to Canvas? (Or is it Teams or Seesaw?) It is a constant feeling of failing to be a good parent, a decent teacher, and an effective employee.
My hope for my daughter is that she can focus on relationships with other kids again. Her friendships with last year’s classmates are fading, despite efforts to do virtual playdates, and she’s never met her current classmates in-person. Sometimes at the end of her class, she and a classmate stay on after the other students and teacher have left the meeting. They make silly faces at each other and show off their toys. It warms my heart to see her connecting with another kid but at the same time, it makes me realize how much she’s missing by not being in school.
She deserves better. She’s lucky and still deserves better. My heart hurts for the students and families who aren’t as lucky and deserve better too.
By Kat Zambon, Ward 5 2020-2021 PLE Board member