Teaching students during the politicizing of a pandemic
Aleous Kujijchagulia | 9/3/2020, midnight
Teaching in the midst of a viral pandemic is one of the most stressful and arduous tasks an educator has ever had to attempt to do in the modern age of educating. And in these adverse times, it is the Afrikan child(ren) here in America who are the least protected and most negatively impacted by the current educational, or better stated as dis-educational, situation. Educators who are sincerely serious about the scholastic growth and development of our most vulnerable, lack the resources, material and training, to teach to mastery. And though they have planned tirelessly as the school start date has approached, it has been to no avail only because they have had their best plans dashed because of the institutionalization of the COVID-19 new normal.
Optimism has waned and apprehension has continued to increase in the most earnest educators as cases of COVID-19 have begun to pop up in our school district, which is the 8th largest school district in this country. With a mandate to have face-to-face and e-learning operate concurrently, educators workloads have tripled. But the fruits of that labor have missed their mark entirely. For example, for an e-learner to be successful in the classroom, there has to be a base level of autonomy and independence instilled in them to be able to receive instruction and then be left to explore and navigate the learning module being introduced. Now, consider the new young scholar who is new to school or who is left with an elderly caregiver and who has been removed from the educational setting for some time—when would the process of automaticity take place? Along the same lines, young scholars need constant redirection oftentimes through physical touch and proximity. This aspect of the teaching and learning process has been removed and made unavailable when young scholars are e-learners, but this is dually the case for face-to-face scholars in the current COVID-19 situated guidelines for teacher propinquity.
It is plain to see that all the decisions being made do not have the scholars’ instructional necessity at the forefront and the scholars have picked up on this notion very quickly. Over the first week and after doing several quick mental check-ins with scholars, they have relayed on each occasion that they are worried about being and getting sick. They have wanted and may have needed reassuring hugs, but the COVID-19 mandate for educator and student closeness has eliminated the ability to show empathy through touch. In the attempt to maintain a level of sterility in the classroom to cut down on the spread of the virus, the classroom has become a sterile laboratory of facts and data that has all but removed the notion of human connectedness from human touch.
Repeated teacher-led and scholar-executed cleaning and sanitizing routines and procedures have eroded the culture building in classrooms dramatically. The wearing of the mask in and of itself creates a new barrier that educators have to navigate to bridge gaps with scholars. The mask muffles dialogue, it can become an item of focus when there is a constant reminder to be worn properly, and it can even quickly become a distraction. The question then becomes how do you remove a tool from the classroom deemed a necessity in the new normal? Student engagement will suffer because of all of the latest nuances that have been forced into the classroom. But what is the alternative? No one in a decision-making role seems to care much. They seem to be fixated on the upward flow of state and federal funding. And for that to continue, the classrooms must be filled to the brim with potential COVID-19 cases.
Aleous Kujijchagulia is a teacher at Walton Academy of the Performing Arts in Hillsborough County in Tampa, Florida.