I was told that on April 1st, Milpitas public schools would be opening up…and fittingly, given the date of the reopening, it’s feeling like a practical joke. I was excited for my distance learners to get educated in the classroom, but alas, the new model for the rest of the year, at least for my school, remains exactly the same except for two afternoons a week, when the kids have an option to be at school for an hour and twenty minutes…and not even for instructional time — that’s all still going to be on Zoom.
It has been a complicated year for educators and students alike. I can’t even imagine what principals are going through, much less the opinions from parents on how they should be doing their job right now. Many parents are disappointed, a lot of kids are sad, but that? That’s just kind of how this year goes. Nothing is going to go back fully to normal this school year. Of course it’s not. Even with the proper spacing of desks and the myriad new safety protocols, the fact remains that some parents, students, and probably even teachers just aren’t comfortable with the classroom just yet. So where does that leave them? On Zoom. As it should be this school year; no one should be forced to go back to the classroom.
The church that I attend here in Milpitas has faithfully continued our youth program via Zoom ever since the beginning of the pandemic. I became a leader on the high school team three weeks before the pandemic shut everything down; Zoom with the students was basically all I had known up until a few months ago, when we started safely meeting outdoors. Hanging with teenagers on Zoom while they sat in their rooms, some with their cameras off, all of us with the distractions of being at home, was hard. But, do you know what felt harder? Being back in person together, with some of my girls on Zoom and some in person. It didn’t take long before the girls on Zoom felt invisible — it was a sad, inevitable reality. The rest of the girls in my group, and if I’m being totally honest, me too, were so starved for in-person connection that it was difficult to stay connected with the Zoomers and a challenge for them to stay engaged.
The kids that are in-person are getting such big benefits from being together and having real connection in the physical world, while the ones that are still on Zoom are suffering far more and feel more out of the loop than before some of the group began meeting in person.
Hybrid learning is hard. Since the decision is still up to individual families and their comfort level with the prospect of in-person learning, things are simply going to be complicated.
My own kids will begin attending in-person for a tiny portion of the day starting this week. How it’s going to really shake out feels like a big question mark. As with everything in the last year, I’m trying to keep my expectations reasonable…whatever that means.
What I do know is that I’m grateful for our health, for our faithful educators, and for a speedy vaccine rollout that will hopefully make the next school year look more like it did before this mess. To all you parents, whatever decision you’ve made for your family, I wish you a smooth April as in-person learning starts back up. And to all the educators, we thank you…Oh, and sorry that I stink at handing in my kindergartener’s homework on time. I guess that note about reasonable expectations should apply to parents, too…