Class is in Session

Recently, I had an opportunity to speak with some educators and parents about their experience in a global pandemic. Each of them gives us a significant look inside their lives since schools closed back in March.

Dr. Sherri Wallace

Dr. Wallace has been an educator in Philadelphia for over 15 years. She has balanced being a school administrator and mom during this pandemic. Check out her story about the current pandemic and its impact in her life, both inside and outside the school.

Dr. Wallace’s Experience

Q: How has the pandemic affected your life personally and professionally?

Both personally and professionally, I had to make adjustments that include virtual learning. Balancing home and work is also how this pandemic has impacted me.

Q: What are your concerns for your children/students during this time?

My concerns are that they are not getting what they need. In regards to my students and my own son, there is a challenge with building relationships with their teachers and peers. Not only the building relationship piece, but also getting the support they need. For example, students may not have adequate access to resources like breakfast, tutoring, etc.

Q: Do you agree with schools that have opened or plan to open soon? Why or why not?

I think that many school districts have utilized data to make their decisions. Ultimately, it is about keeping students, staff, and families safe.

Q: What can schools do to improve virtual and hybrid learning?

The significant thing is to close the digital divide by providing families with the technology needed and the training for using online platforms.

Q: What are your tips for other parents and educators?

For both parents and educators, my tips are:

To be patient – this is a learning curve for everyone. We must work together in order to achieve success.

Ask questions – If you don’t understand something, inquire.

And don’t lose sight of the goal, which is educating our children.

Q: Moving forward, what is your hope for the future?

While this was a challenging experience, my hope is that people are able to recognize their own strengths.

Meeka Outlaw

Outlaw has been working in education for almost 20 years. But education is only part of her story, she is also a community organizer in the same neighborhood that raised her. Read about her experience in the middle of COVID-19.

Ms. Outlaw’s Experience

Q: How has the pandemic affected your life personally and professionally?

Honestly, personally the pandemic has allowed me to do the one thing I always loved doing and that is being able to be home to spend more time with my child. The downside of it is working from home way past my normal job hours and not being able to reach the group of people who are not tech savvy or that do not have use of computers.

Q: What are your concerns for your children/students during this time?

My main concern for my son is that he is not getting the full scope of learning such as the hands on type of education he would get in the classroom and I try to supplement as much as i can and the other concern is him not being able to be around and learn from his peers.

Q: Do you agree with schools that have opened or plan to open soon? Why or why not?

Honestly, I feel that it is too soon. Because as with anything else you can be the best preparer but you have no control over how serious others may or may not take this virus.

Q: What can schools do to improve virtual and hybrid learning?

There isn’t really much more that the schools can do the rest is up to the parents to supplement what the child is not getting. Unfortunately some parents don’t know how to or can’t fit it into their daily schedules. They may not have help or they may just simply not know how to do it. As an aside these internet companies could really help by making their internet connections stronger.

Q: What are your tips for other parents and educators?

Be patient this is a learning curve for everyone and when you keep that in mind, you can deal better with all the hiccups that come with it.

Q: Moving forward, what is your hope for the future?

My hope is that eventually people are paid a living wage, Gentrification becomes a thing of the past, rent isn’t ridiculous high. You probably think this has nothing to do with the survey however all of this affects a child’s education

Christopher A. Pender, Sr. MHS

Through his passion for the community and many roles served, Pender has given back in countless ways to Philadelphia and surrounding areas. Currently, he serves as a board member for a local school district while operating his own nonprofit that supports Families and Communities. Read about how he is tackling the pandemic here.

Mr. Pender’s Experience

Q: How has the pandemic affected your life personally and professionally?

I have been blessed not to have been affected myself by the Pandemic personally but the stories and encounters I have had with those who have been affected by the Pandemic have been emotionally and spiritually draining. Professionally the Pandemic has produced more work for me and allowed me to be more creative through being a pioneer in virtual learning. The Pandemic has also allowed me to see the need for more Social Emotional Learning supports and tools for our young scholars and their families.

Q: What are your concerns for your children/students during this time?

My number one concern is of course the safety and wellbeing of our young scholars and future change agents. My next concern would be the amount of learning loss our next generation of leaders have suffered through this unpreceded time that may take years if at all to catch up.

Youth with too much time on their hands are more likely to make poor choices without the resources and support to assist them in navigating through such times as these.

Q: Do you agree with schools that have opened or plan to open soon? Why or why not?

I understand that schools eventually must reopen and many of our young scholars need to be in a physical learning environment. However, the loss of one human life would be one too many. I believe when there is a better understanding of what Covid-19 is, how it is transmitted and how to effectively treat it schools should proceed with great caution.

Q: What can schools do to improve virtual and hybrid learning?

I believe additional funds are needed to improve the virtual learning experience that ultimately holds the key to success for far too many of our young scholars. There needs to be a plan in place to make sure every family and potential young scholar has the necessary tools for success. A quality device, a good internet connection, and TI for families who struggle with technology for various reasons. Virtual tutoring sessions for students and parents who would like to be equipped to better assist with class and homework. Virtual Social Emotional supports where families could receive the additional support needed to navigate the stress created by Covid deaths, financial hardships through loss of household income and many other challenges that contribute to barriers for our young scholars. Training for teachers on how to be engaging and effective virtually is imperative as we hope to provide the very best investment we can in our young scholars

Q: What are your tips for other parents and educators?

We as the gatekeepers for the next generation need to be present, engaged and true advocates for our young scholars. Parents and families need to be active and engaged in what their children are being taught, the quality of the materials and how the information is being shared with our young scholars. Educators need to be as creative as they can be when creating virtual lesson plans and conducting virtual classes. Parents and Educators need to come together to make sure our young scholars are receiving the very best virtual educational experience possible.

Q: Moving forward, what is your hope for the future?

My hope for the future is that we as the gatekeepers see this as a wake-up call on the necessity of making sure our youth are adequately equipped to use technology. My hope is that we as a society see how we have underfunded and under-supported our youth when it comes to education and the tools needed to provide real equal opportunities for our young scholars to compete and be successful in whatever endeavors they choose in life. My hope for the future is that we as the gatekeepers learn from these unprecedented times and “Do Better so the next generation can Be Better.”

La’Trish Mack

A fellow East Carolina University graduate and now a teacher in her hometown of Thomasville, NC, Mack is using her gift to inspire high school students. When class is not in session, she is writing for her blog, The Not So Fairy Tale Story. Take a look at her experience balancing life in a pandemic.

Ms. Mack’s Experience

Q: How has the pandemic affected your life personally and professionally?

I’m not able to enjoy going out to eat or to the movies, which was my typical weekend to clear my mind and reset. Professionally, it has affected my teaching style. I’m now able to take advantage of ways to teach online creatively, which isn’t a bad thing and is actually something I enjoy doing.

Q: What are your concerns for your children/students during this time?

I’m concerned about them not following social distancing or not wearing a mask when hanging out with friends. I see a few of them in the community at grocery stores or Walmart and when I see a lot of them, they aren’t wearing masks.

Q: Do you agree with schools that have opened or plan to open soon? Why or why not?

I know schools have to plan ahead. I feel that it’s always good to plan ahead but then to also leave room for change. Covid numbers are increasing. It’s better to play things safe and be sure to bring students in when it’s completely safe than to rush bringing them back to school.

Q: What can schools do to improve virtual and hybrid learning?

I feel that my school is doing a great job of contacting parents and students to keep them updated and informed. I’m not sure if we could be doing anything else any better.

Q: What are your tips for other parents and educators?

Practice social distancing and wear your mask. The covid virus is real and should be treated as such.

Q: Moving forward, what is your hope for the future?

I hope that there is a cure that is tested and approved sooner than later. I hope that we stop losing people in the world from this virus.

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