UPDATE: ANOTHER BLOW!! This was originally published just a couple weeks ago, TPS, our school district, just sent out another message that ALL kids will return to remote learning at home. We are currently working through some deep emotions, but this post holds truer now then it did just a few weeks ago. Would love to read your take and thoughts.
The BIG day was almost here, the day the kids have been looking forward to since March, going back to school in-person!! Our 7th and 9th grader were super stoked, after a decade in an elementary building they were going to finally have lockers. You would have thought they were finally receiving their driver’s license the way their eyes light up when talking about their locker, locker combinations, how they wanted to decorate their lockers, etc. As a parent it felt amazing seeing them getting so excited about school, and truth be told they weren’t the only ones. My plan after all three kiddos were finally in in-person, or the hybrid schedule, was to start substitute teaching. Yep, we were finally moving on from this quarantine lifestyle, back into the real world, back to reality, our lives outside the home, no longer on a screen daily, but actually in-person. We were so close we could taste it!! And then we received the crushing news.
Our county was back in the red, which meant our school district had to reassess the hybrid schedule, which ultimately meant, after longing to go back to school since last March, and practically being able to touch their 1st scheduled in-person hybrid day back in school, the rug was pulled out from under them, and my 7th and 9th grader’s in-person start date was pushed back yet again…and for my sweet High Schooler it was REALLY pushed back, all the way back to next year, January 2021. That blow was huge! That blow took us all down for the count. We were all upset, disappointed, and angry! And I wanted the kids to know that it was okay to not feel okay, I didn’t want them masking their feelings with fake positivity. So we took the morning and part of the afternoon and felt our emotions, we identified our emotions, addressed the fact that the news was upsetting, disappointing, and that it even made us feel a bit depressed and down. Then after everyone’s online schooling I made them close down their Chromebooks and we physically took a mini field trip and emotionally and mentally took a long journey back in time….they say misery loves company and that counting your blessing is the fastest way to turn that frown upside down, we did a combo deal!
Our physical field trip was to Wildwood Metropark’s Schoolhouse, seemed rather appropriate for the conversation and discussion I had planned. When we arrived we peered into the windows, noted how close the desks were to one another, and observed some other physical features of the building. We all agreed that indoor plumbing was definitely a brilliant invention. And after a few giggles and some nauseating comments about the outhouses class was in session. Today’s topic, Living History is HARD.
Our educational journey is going to take three significant stops through history and we will begin the journey back during the colonial times when young boys were expected to be able to read and write, while some girls were fortunate to learn how to read, mostly so they could read the Bible, they didn’t learn how to write. Since men handled the worldly affairs that required reading and writing while women handled the domestic affairs, there wasn’t a need for women to be educated. And in fact, most women would sign documents with an “X” because they couldn’t sign their names. Thoughts? How would that make you feel girls? (And we paused and pondered the idea for a bit, discussed, & really tried to put ourselves in their uncomfortable Colonial shoes) Living history is hard. Thankfully, eventually both girls and boys would be welcomed and educated in one room Schoolhouses like this one.
So everything seems good for a bit, there are generations brought up in these one room Schoolhouses unscaved by any big decisions that would disrupt their comfortable routine or what was then, their “normal”. However if we move ahead to 1890-early 1900s suddenly these one room Schoolhouses like the one you see in front of you are becoming obsolete. The quaint cozy comfort of having all your siblings in one room is suddenly going to change, now there’s going to be large buildings with multiple classrooms per building and you might be lucky if you even see one of your siblings once during the day. Can you imagine having to say goodbye to what felt like an extension of family, where the little kids learned from the big? Image how intimidating the large schools must have felt compared to those one room schoolhouses. Living history is hard.
The last stop on our educational journey through time takes place in 1954, Brown vs. The Board of Education. Brown vs. The Board of Education declared that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal and therefore violated the 14th Amendment. Who knows what the 14th Amendment states? (Thankfully I knew my oldest had literally just discussed this in her Social Studies Class, she expressed the fact that it discusses citizenship rights and equal protection under the law….). I could quickly see we were beginning to lose my 4th grader. So I tried to express it in simpler terms. Back then things were segregated, or separated into black and white, there was a school that black students attended and then there was a school that white students attended. And for a while that was the “normal” way of life. (“I would want to go to the black school so I could see my friends”, my youngest declared. I explained that she wouldn’t be allowed and that if you were born back then there’s a good chance you wouldn’t have half of the amazing friends you have now…). Now, I want you to really try to put yourself in these children’s’ shoes, their “normal” was only going to school with children their own color, their friends, family, favorite teachers and suddenly with the integration of schools all children world be going to school together (though, things were still very much segregated). How do you think the black children felt walking into a new school with white children? How do you think the white children treated them? What ensued was a long deep discussion during a walk through the park… I hadn’t planned on going quite this deep, but it was quality uninterrupted time that allowed for some intense reflecting and really putting things into perspective. Living History is HARD.
I must admit after our journey through history, after the children really contemplated all the children that have come before them and have lived through HARD defining moments in history, suddenly remote virtual learning just seemed like a hiccup on the educational timeline and even a small badge of honor.
Our field trip and discussion was precisely what we needed, it’s amazing how putting things into perspective can really help see the forest for the trees.