Operating Theater

The Old Operating Theatre” by Uglix. Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

It’s week 2 of virtual schooling for my second grader in Richmond, Virginia. There’s a lot of bubbling consternation among the parents of kids in my daughter’s class. Whether it’s the length of the day or the frustration with certain assignments, folks have a lot to say. I don’t think it’s perfect by any stretch, and my child’s teacher is the source of some issues (extreme technology deficit at the top of the list), but I’m still cautiously optimistic. Every day the students improve their mute button etiquette. The teacher finds clever ways around her own technological limitations. The students respond to and engage in the classwork. I’m super lucky to have had my daughter tell me this morning that she likes her teacher, and she has been generally positive on the experience so far. We’re privileged in that regard, and I recognize that many students may be struggling along with their teachers for a variety of reasons (different needs, home/care center environments, etc.).

I have a hypothesis, however. I think a new and terrible source of anxiety for parents is our sudden and complete view into our children’s school day. Last year, like every year before, we sent our kids to school and hoped to get a few sentences out of them about their day when they returned in the afternoon. We didn’t witness the teacher’s instruction or see any classwork until the results came home. We haven’t been in the classrooms witnessing challenges, disruptions, and any other issues that might surface.

Except now we are. Or at least folks like my wife and me who are largely white and/or privileged. Folks like us who have the money/time/job flexibility to have one or more parents working from home, lending assistance to our kids while they learn remotely. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our superintendent has received most of his feedback on the schedule from parents in the West End and Northside, home to most of the white families in system, with typically higher incomes. I don’t presume that there are no issues for students in other parts of town, but most of the vocal frustration of schedule and operation isn’t coming from the Southside or East End.

Did you have great teachers/school years throughout your entire education? If you did, you’re super lucky and I envy you. When I think back on my own second grade year I recall the very worst teacher of my primary education. She was actively hostile toward me (though I never shut up…)! My daughter’s learning circumstances are not ideal because, well, GESTURES BROADLY, but her teacher is fine. She’ll be fine.

I’m sympathetic to the parents and children that are dealing with real educational, emotional, neurological, social, or other issues in this situation. Every accommodation should be made to ensure equitable education for all students across socioeconomic strata and different levels of ability. But that’s not most of the families. I think a great deal of parents could benefit from weaning themselves off of active monitoring of their kids’ virtual school days. Our kids are smart! Let’s back away (at a reasonable pace) and let them develop self-sufficiency. Perhaps our collective blood pressure will lower.