Every email, every text message, every video chat is a salve to my broken heart. Being without the people I have dedicated my life to is hard. They were always an anchor for me, a constant, they kept me on schedule. And now I feel adrift.
While being without my students is hard, it’s even harder to hear people debate them. You see, I teach special education. I teach adults whose whole program exists to integrate them into the community. How do you teach someone to be a part of the community, if the community is currently shut down?
Sadly some districts answer to this is, you do not. As I read stories from teachers all over the United States, more and more districts are deciding that it is easier “to call” school for the year, then it is to try to teach special education students online. It’s the easiest, simplest choice.
It hurts my heart to hear the people I love being used as an out for districts. To see the people I love being pointed to as the reason why no one can access learning. That the people I love who have fought so hard to prove they have worth, have to fight one more fight to prove that they belong.
I have been accused of looking at this situation with my heart instead of my head. And I admit, that’s a real possibility. I do understand that there are students in special education that require intense behavior support or one-on-one aids. I do understand that there are parents who are simply trying to make it through their day. I have taught those students, I get it.
I would argue that now, more than ever we open communication with these student’s parents. To assure them that whatever help we can give remotely, it will be given. Now is not the time to send the message that because we are unsure HOW we refuse to TRY.
Now is the time to reach out to these families and remind them that they matter. That during this closure, we have not forgotten them or trivialized their struggles. Maybe that help looks like a bag of groceries on the porch for a parent who cannot walk through the grocery store with their child.
Shifting our focus to what we can do (provide support/resources) rather than we cannot do (traditional learning) should be the primary concern. I may be speaking with my heart, but I refuse to believe that as soon as there is a crisis, we abandon our most vulnerable.