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28 Aug 2020

Alawfultruth: A Most Unusual Back to School Period (Part One)

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August 28, 2020 Category: Commentary Posted by:

It seems as if nothing about the year 2020 aims to be ordinary, as life continues to shift and turn for everyone in the United States and around the world. In February, schools began shutting down because of a pandemic caused by a new  virus called COVID-19.   At the time, parents were told protocols would be in place for their children to return to school safely for the Fall semester.

Well, here we are. It is the beginning of the Fall semester for K-12 and college students, with one large exception – what was a little known virus in February has caused over 5 million people to test positive for the illness and over 177,000 to die in the United States, with no end in sight.

As a result, some students who thought they were going back to school are now faced with learning online once again, only this time, it is a full day of being in front of the computer as opposed to a few hours. Teachers have had to adjust in ways large and small, and the students themselves have been left to wonder how long it will be until they can spend time with each other again. 

On the other side of all of this are the parents who are working from home and must be pseudo-teachers for their children while getting their work done at the same time. 

 In a recent social media post, it was interesting to watch the discourse between a mom whose child is doing online classes at Howard University and is quite displeased by what she saw happening between her child and the school, because “I paid $48,000 and expect something better for my money,” and a School District of Philadelphia teacher who kept trying to explain that this is life for us all right now, and that we have to adjust.

 In this week’s installment of a two-part story outlining their respective experiences, the Adams family shared their perspective with the  SUN.

Their son Juwan — who is dealing with major health challenges —is an 18 year-old college freshman, majoring in accounting and business, while his younger brother Jayden is entering the 4th grade. Andrea Adams, their mother, is having to navigate and negotiate life with her husband Victor and this new normal they all find themselves in.

Jayden is a precocious 9-year-old child who is filled with energy and loves science. Both he and Juwan were asked three questions to give us an idea of what this time means to each of them.

SUN: School is about to begin for you; what challenges you about learning virtually instead of heading off to a campus to learn in person?

Jayden: “I have no challenges. I like working with Mom and Dad, but they sometimes make me do extra work. I still get to see my friends and teachers on Zoom. I do miss my bus drivers and the ladies that work at the school.”

SUN: Do you think you are a better learner at home or at school?

Jayden: “I’m a better learner in school. I’m a curious kid and my teachers make school super fun to learn with my friends.”

SUN: What do you want your teachers or instructors to know about you during this time we are in?

Jayden: I want my teachers to know that I am a good kid and I will wear my mask if we come back to school. I want them to know that I miss them when I don’t see them for a long time.”

 As the older of the two brothers, Juwan’s responses were naturally quite different. 

SUN: School is about to begin for you; what challenges you about learning virtually instead of heading off to a campus to learn in person?

Juwan: “I don’t have any challenges, because I can do anything I put my mind to. I am used to having to do school from home, because I missed a lot of school during my cancer treatments. After my transplant in 2017, I had a tutor that used to come to my house a few times a week.”

SUN: Do you think you are a better learner at home or at school?

Juwan: I learn better in school. Being in school does make it easier to understand the lessons. I would love to have started my freshman year of college in person, since this is what I have been fighting for, but it’s just one more obstacle that will make me stronger. Doing school online does give me more flexibility for my doctor’s appointments.”

SUN: What do you want your teachers or instructors to know about you during this time we are in?

Juwan: “I have cancer, so I may need extensions on days that I’m not there. I’m not just slacking off like other kids are.”

The boys’ mother, Andrea Adams, weighed in with her own thoughts.

“As a parent, I am filled with lots of anxiety, but I try to remember that things could be a million times worse,” she said. “We are blessed that both my husband and I can work from home, so we are able to monitor their progress. The kids make it easy, because they are both naturally smart and they catch on quickly. 

“However, I am worried about the long-term effects that not being able to attend school may cause,” Adams continued. “I worry that they may fall behind, or the lack of socialization will negatively impact them. Both of my sons are extremely social. They love playing sports and they both play instruments.” 

“These concerns have caused us to have to come up with creative ways to make sure they are still learning, getting enough exercise and remain socially active.” she said. “Thankfully, we have tools like Zoom, Messenger Kidz and FaceTime to help keep them in touch with friends. Jayden has virtual playdates and we also find creative ways of doing supplemental work to make sure they stay on grade level.” 

“While I am genuinely concerned, I am intentional to not let my anxiety rub off on them,” she concluded. “We acknowledge that this is hard, but we use this to demonstrate how resilient we can be in the face of hardships. As a family, we talk often about how we can find alternate ways of accomplishing our goals. In some strange way, I feel that Juwan being diagnosed with cancer has taught us ways of coping and making the best out of crummy situations.”

In Part Two of this story, we will hear from two additional college students about their experiences so far as they also navigate this “new normal.”

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