My district has been in the news quite a bit in the past week and not for positive reasons. I haven’t read the entirety of all of these articles so maybe my rant will be off but here’s what it’s looked like for almost a week.
From April 17th: a letter to the editor: Fairfax County schools and Blackboard are flunking on distance learning
From today, April 20th: Online learning sputters again in Fairfax, as proof mounts that district was warned of issues
We were set to start distance learning (online learning – whatever) last Tuesday, April 14th. It didn’t go well. Classes ended up being canceled for the rest of the week and drastic changes were made to how students access online meeting spaces for class. As well as changes to how to access materials and how much time would be synchronous vs asynchronous options that didn’t require Blackboard.
Today we got back online together. There were plenty of challenges and glitches. Some of them, I believe, came from all of us trying to navigate a new system and not all fully understanding it. Some of them came from the tech not holding up to the demand.
People are really ticked off. I get that. I especially get it for parents who are trying to support their kids’ learning while also working and dealing with myriad other unknown stresses. Teachers are frustrated with all of the time and energy they have put into planning and setting things up only to have things fail again. And we’re all feeling all kinds of emotions simply because we are currently dealing with a pandemic. That definitely adds to it all, for everyone.
So I really do get the frustration.
I just don’t get why anyone thinks any school system should have been prepared for this situation. No one, no organization, no government, no business, not a soul was ready for this situation. It is, as so many keep saying, unprecedented. There are countless possibilities of unprecedented situations for which we are all unprepared. We can not be prepared for everything. That is absurd. We do not have the time, the money, the mental space, or the energy to prepare for all of the possible awful things that could happen.
Should this be going better? More smoothly? I would have liked it to. Very much. We have, however, nearly 190,000 students in more than 200 schools in our district. Those students’ lives and needs range greatly. In the midst of a pandemic our district started serving food to kids and families the first day we were closed. They quickly expanded the sites over the following week. Our district has provided devices, in the midst of a pandemic and stay at home order, to many families. In the academic area, packets have been mailed to K-8 students for weeks now to keep their learning moving forward (this is a far from perfect option but it is definitely helpful for some families) and activities and links were up online almost immediately.
I really can’t wrap my head around why folks think we should have been able to move, in a month, from serving kids almost solely at school to serving them almost solely at home. It doesn’t change that it sucks to be where we are and to keep having things not work smoothly. I know. And I can feel frustrated with that.
What I don’t feel is the need to start throwing blame around. So many who are having blame thrown at them have been working far harder than I have for weeks while living in a pandemic. I’m willing to assume they’re doing their best. Their best just isn’t meeting the massive need we’re currently facing. We’ll have to keep trying. Maybe with a little grace too.