How much are we willing to risk our children's education?
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Overview: Welcome back to the blog! In this post, I will explain my opinion on education during the COVID-19 pandemic and how schools should conduct learning.
Note: I am not a medical professional. I am sharing my opinion using reliable sources.
Another note: Read about my Facebook Live event (Tuesday, August 25th) at the end of this post!
Education has become one of the most controversial topics of 2020. Medical professionals, teachers, psychologists, and parents are all sharing insight into how they think the upcoming school year should be conducted. But who is right?
Well. . .it’s complicated.
First of all, every opinion has its justifications and could be argued as the correct stance. Doctors and psychologists have their medical evidence, and some teachers and parents have the students’ mental health and education in their best interest.
So, the real question is: "In the midst of a pandemic, how do schools balance health and education?"
Let’s start this discussion by summarizing the current plan issued by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz.
The Current Plan
Video source: https://www.kare11.com/article/news/education/governor-walz-minnesota-schools-fall-2020-covid-19-announcement/89-e2dbe056-38de-4339-afa9-89bc8fdb97f9
On July 30th, Walz released “Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-2021 School Year,” which illustrates his guidelines and restrictions for the upcoming year. Here are some of the main points from his plan:
Ultimately, schools are able to choose which plan they would like to follow (with state guidance).
For more information, watch the video embedded at the start of this section.
My THoughts. . .
Let me reiterate that I am not a medical professional. I am simply sharing my opinion using reliable sources to back up my claims.
Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
To summarize my thoughts, I think schools should consider the question: “How far are you willing to risk children’s education for their health?” when planning for the 2020-2021 school year.
Therefore, when making plans for the upcoming school year, schools must take their students’ age range, stage of development, and internet access into consideration.
School boards and legislators need to also understand that a school environment is very different from the usual indoor public space. Schools are a place where kids should feel welcomed, safe, and loved. And if you aren’t able to provide kids with this kind of learning environment, then what’s the point of teaching in-person?
Early childhood and elementary school students are in their own predicament. These kids are in the most need of in-person classes to support their emotional and brain development/health. The early years of school also teach valuable, fundamental life skills such as sharing, patience, teamwork, and conversational skills. However, these skills are seemingly impossible to teach due to COVID-19 restrictions (especially when it comes to sharing).
Additionally, teachers are put into the position of front-line workers when teaching in-person. Everyday, they will expose themselves to hundreds of students and other staff, putting themselves and their families at risk for COVID-19.
Whew! Let’s take a breath for a second. . .
Okay, now that we laid down the pros and cons, here are my thoughts on what should be done.
1. First, Consider the level of risk
Before a school makes any plans, they should look at their recommendations first. Governor Walz issued a grouping of Minnesota counties into the three learning models (online, blended, and in-person), so schools should identify which model is suggested for them first before they proceed to final plans.
If the school district is suggested to pursue in-person learning, they should highly consider going through with that plan, especially if the school’s student body is made of early childhood or elementary students.
However, if the school is suggested to pursue blended or online learning, it gets more complicated. If the student body is high schoolers or middle schoolers, the school should lean towards online learning due to the risk of higher reported rates of COVID in this age range. When it comes to early childhood and elementary school, I would push for blended learning only if the school is able to provide a welcoming learning environment.
2. Listen to eachother
School boards should take parents’, teachers’, and students' opinions into account when making the final decisions. These are the people that schools are putting at risk if they ultimately decide to conduct school in-person, so it is essential that kids and adults feel valued and heard in the decision-making process.
As Governor Walz said, “Not all schools look the same. Not all parts of our state look the same. And we need to take those considerations in[to account].”
3. Masking Policy
If a school does decide to conduct blended or strictly in-person classes, they need to take the masking policy into consideration.
As stated earlier, Governor Walz issued a state-wide mask mandate for Minnesotans over the age of two in any indoor public building. This includes schools.
Now for kids outside of elementary school, this mandate shouldn’t cause many problems. However, kids younger than ten will have some more issues.
Young children have a difficult time understanding the pandemic and what it means in terms of jeopardizing their health. They also have a hard time understanding why they can’t see their teachers and friends in-person.
On top of all that, young children will have a difficult time keeping a mask on all day at school. To them, it may seem just like a nuisance or a piece of annoying cloth on their face.
So, if elementary schools or early childhood centers conduct classes in person, the mask mandate will be hard to enforce. Although it will be difficult, here are some recommendations to make mask-wearing seem more bearable to young kids:
The topic of education during a pandemic is extremely controversial and there seems to be no right/wrong. I hope this post brought you some clarity and sparked the conversation on this important topic.
Please share this post on social media or with your friends to continue the conversation.
Next Week's Post: Facebook Live Stream!
You read that right. Next Tuesday, I will be hosting a Facebook Live event on the Journal of a Future Teacher's Facebook page! I will be introducing the blog to Facebook, address any questions/comments, and talk about my future plans with the blog!
If you do not have Facebook or are unable to attend, I will post the video on the regular blog feed after the session is over. :)
The event will be held at 10 am on Tuesday, August 25th. To find the page, search @journalofafutureteacher on Facebook or click the icon below. I hope to see you then!
Last Week's Post: My Sophomore Year Plans!
Courses, clubs, and COVID-19, oh my! In this post, you'll hear all about my plans and goals for my second year in college! Click here to read this post.
Leave me a Comment!
If you like this post, have any questions, or have ideas on how I can improve my blog, leave me a comment below! Your input is always appreciated. As always, thank you for your support!
Click on the links below to explore the sources mentioned in this post!
"Teachers face Covid-19 fears. . ."
CDC: Considerations for Schools
"6 Classroom Layouts to Maintain Social Distancing"
"Coronavirus (COVID-19): How to Talk to Your Child"
Kare 11: "Walz announces district-by-district back to school plan"
Take Action. Start the Conversation. Be the change.
Meghan Hesterman (she/her) is a child advocate and education blogger. While a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), she created Journal of a Future Teacher to share her journey in becoming an early childhood teacher.