School in a Pandemic: A Lesson Plan in Solidarity

young Black mask wearing boy making a muscle as he walks in a field

Let’s stop worrying about where our kids “should” be, and start worrying about where we all are, collectively.

Claire Labrosa

School in a Pandemic: A Lesson Plan in Solidarity

I’ve been thinking a lot about school in the fall, along with every other parent and educator in the country I’m sure. I’ve been reading all the articles and paying close attention to the survey results by parents, students, and educators locally and around the country. I know I’m only one voice, but here is what I would like to see happen in the fall if I controlled the levers of power.

1. Micro-schools: basically a “school” of ten students. One general education teacher, and support teachers if needed (SPED, ESL, art, music, etc).

2. Flexibility of location. outside is better during a pandemic so every micro-school needs access to outdoor space. I envision a scenario where all the museums, libraries, Rec centers, book stores, and more that weren’t open to the public could be utilized for classroom space. This way all 25,000+ students in the RCSD could have their micro-school of ten in a classroom/building space that comfortably provides the opportunity for social distancing.

3. Flexibility of job/school site. If you aren’t comfortable returning to a micro-classroom during a pandemic then you should not be forced to do so. There are many support roles needed for educators because many parents/caregivers will not feel comfortable sending their child to a physical classroom either. Distance/crisis learning options should be made available for those educators and students who cannot come back to the physical classroom until there is a vaccine.

4. Focus on social-emotional healing and growth, and get rid of all standardized assessments. Before the pandemic, those of us on the ground knew that one test could never measure the intricacies of each child we taught. We all knew (although few leaders admit) that these tests were a test of your race and socioeconomic status more than your breadth of knowledge. The time for the standardized test has been over, and nothing like a pandemic to show us that there is nothing standard about our experiences. We are all going through this differently, and we cannot expect all students to be tested the same way.

5. For decades schools have taken on more and more roles that other safety nets should have been covering. Let’s take this pandemic as a time to remove the roles that aren’t explicitly in the educators’ job description (nutritionist, counselor, social worker, driver, caseworker, and more) and return them to the hands of the experts that are best suited to handle them by beefing up our social safety nets and creating community locations (perhaps next to all school buildings?) where these needs can be met efficiently and properly.

6. Finally, let’s stop worrying about where our kids “should” be, and start worrying about where we all are, collectively. This pandemic, the uprising sweeping the country led by incredible Black leaders who have laid the groundwork for years, has given us a unique chance to SEE that we are all connected. Your health is my health, your child’s health is my child’s health, and that is far more important than if you learned long division in 4th grade or 8th grade.

About Claire Labrosa

(she/her/hers) Claire Labrosa is an English as a New Language teacher in the Rochester City School District, and a founding member of the Rochester Organization of Rank and File Educators (RORE) a social justice caucus in the RTA. Claire is a lifelong Rochester resident, a graduate of the RCSD, and a passionate advocate for equitable and fully funded public education.

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