Not All Students Can Do Virtual Learning and We Need to Cut Them Some Slack


Not All Students Can Do Virtual Learning And We Need to Stop Expecting It

We need to have a real talk. School simply can’t be a priority in many homes right now. There are more pressing situations. Many students don’t have the technology, resources or support to do online school. Many students are scared, hungry, lonely and bouncing around from place to place. Many families are doing their best but still can’t tackle school. We need to accept that without putting extra pressure, guilt or shame (even unintentionally) on kids and their families who simply can’t do distance learning. The world is in a pandemic crisis and many households have zero resources or energy to put towards doing school at home and that’s just going to have to be okay. 

Not everyone can afford to have access to the Internet.

Many students have no way to access online schooling. Not all families can afford Internet access, phone service or even electricity right now. Libraries are closed, so students can’t go study there. Lots of families have multiple kids, parents and extended family members all trying to use a single device. Yes, the laptop was sent home for schoolwork, but Mom battling the crashing unemployment website is more pressing right now. Not to mention, some students are faced with the harsh reality of living in drug-ridden homes where laptops, tablets, and phones might be taken and sold for drugs.

Some kids aren’t getting meals every day.

Remember those kids you know got the bulk of their food at school? Well, they’re hungry now and it’s hard to focus on schoolwork when your stomach is rumbling. The families who were already living in poverty before COVID-19 might even be in fear of becoming homeless after this. Other families who were doing fine a month ago have been without income for weeks and are trying to figure out how to pay rent or put food in the fridge. Sure, many school districts have made meals available to students, but they are usually delivered to specific locations for pickup and not every kid can get to them. Also, there may be many more people living in the household than the food will feed. Providing food is a great thing, but it doesn’t solve hunger problems for every kid. 

Some extreme living situations make at-home learning nearly impossible.

We don’t know their situations! Asking anything might be too much right now. Some children were already at a disadvantage and the COVID-19 crisis may be impacting them even more.

Children who were already living in traumatic neglectful and abusive situations have no reprieve now. They don’t get to escape to the safety of school. The American Academy of Pediatrics expects an increase in child abuse due to the stress of COVID-19. Kids can’t focus on school if they aren’t safe. 

Foster kids are in limbo. COVID-19 is causing a crisis for foster kids. They are being removed from foster homes because of financial issues or illness of foster parents, but new homes aren’t willing to take them because of possible exposure. This instability makes it impossible to keep up with online school work – or even keep track of devices schools have lent. 

Some kids are too worried and overwhelmed to work. It’s nearly impossible to be motivated enough to tackle online learning if you’re depressed or anxious. How do we expect them to focus on school when they’re worried their loved ones might get sick or that they won’t have enough money for essentials because their parents lost their jobs?

Some parents are legitimately unable to teach them.

Even if they want to help, low education or literacy levels, language barriers and inexperience with technology may make it near impossible for some parents to be of much help to heir children right now. 

Many parents are working long hours outside of the home. These essential workers come home from long shifts at hospitals and grocery stores exhausted and worried about exposing their kids to the virus. Some kids are spending most of their time alone because their parents self-isolate away from them for their protection as much as possible. 

Other parents are expected to perform their same jobs from home. They’re struggling to keep up with the workload, make phone calls, and attend Zoom meetings while also caring for their kids. Teachers are doing the same thing, so we know how hard it is. We don’t know what families are dealing with on top of this already-overwhelming juggling act. 

Think of the students who relied on school the most – the kids with special needs, IEPs, and support services. Parents aren’t special education teachers. They don’t have all of the technology, adaptations, and resources to help their child learn at home. They don’t have access to aides, specialists, and therapists right now. They’re doing their best to just make it through the day.

Some kids have taken on serious family responsibilities right now.

Many students are now caregivers to the younger children in their families while parents work. This likely includes siblings, cousins, family friends, and neighbors. They may also be caring for elderly or sick family members. Some students are spending their days translating for family members who need help filling out unemployment claims, calling landlords about rent extensions, understanding the news and more. Lots of kids are taking on serious responsibility in their families right now. Not all kids are home in the day. Some are being shuffled around to different caregivers multiple times a day. Sometimes the only option for supervision is to go to work with the parent. Many teens have had to get jobs at grocery stores to help their families pay rent. And some kids don’t have a place to call home at all.

School can wait until things calm down.

This situation is temporary. Schools will reopen. This time away isn’t going to permanently hinder a student’s ability to learn and be successful. It’s not going to wipe out all the knowledge they’ve already obtained. We will support them and help them when life isn’t so heavy. These aren’t normal times and many families have obstacles we can’t even imagine. It’s okay if they don’t do school right now. It has to be ok because it just isn’t an option for many students. 

So what do we do about this? The same thing we’ve always done – support our students. Check-in with them the best we can. Let them know we care and are available. Send out info about resources for food, financial help, etc. to caregivers. They might not even have a way to receive emails or calls from us. In those cases, we can keep space for them in our hearts and in our virtual classrooms anyway. Most of all we need to be understanding and compassionate of all our students because we really don’t know everything about their circumstances.

Also Read:

Not All Students Can Do Virtual Learning And We Need to Stop Expecting It_Bored Teachers

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Rachael Moshman
Rachael Moshman, M.Ed. is a mom, educator, writer, and advocate for self-confidence. She’s been a teacher in classrooms of infants through adult college students. She loves pizza, Netflix and yoga.
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