Frederick Fields and his team at FLF Educational Solutions are staying true to their goal of delivering the best possible learning experience to students, irrespective of their background. In a related development, the organization is looking to help more kids, especially children of color and students with disabilities get the right start to life, particularly with the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic.
School districts across the United States struggled with inequitable discipline practices even before the unfortunate emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Child Trends’ analysis of federal data from 2011-2016, black learners and students with disabilities remain twice as likely as their peers to be suspended. Recent numbers from the United States Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection show that students with disabilities served to make up only 13% of the total numbers enrolled. One can rightly deduce that these alarming statistics must have worsened with the coronavirus pandemic and evolving post-pandemic practices. Educators have discovered during the pandemic that inappropriate student behaviors have decreased for onsite instruction, largely due to smaller class sizes. However, there are concerns about the discipline of students upon their return from virtual learning.
Multi-tiered systems of support gained traction prior to the pandemic as compared to punitive discipline and have become more vital as some bit of normalcy returns to the education sector. While some students could not build much-needed relationships with their teacher or classmate, teacher-parents relationships improved.
According to an American Civil Liberties Union analysis of 2015-16 federal data, approximately 11 million school days were missed by Black students and students with disabilities, with approximately 66 million hours of instruction due to suspensions. The figures are predicted to increase if systems are not put in place to augment understanding of heightened trauma and anxiety that many students have suffered during the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic era.
It has become imperative for educators in the Little Rock school district and other parts of the nation to reach out to families now to identify and mitigate the potential challenges children may have as they return to in-person learning. It is also important to be mindful of the “how” involved with communicating with Millennial and Generation Z parents.
The teachers-parents relationship can be augmented by mitigating bias while paying attention to the content of their communication. It is also important to note that not all parents are tech-savvy. Consequently, educators have a moral obligation to meet them where they are and establish positive relationships with them as well.
A functional and positive relationship between a Millennial and Generation Z parent and educator is much more than just a vehicle for status reports from teacher to parents on a child’s academic performance or behavior. It is a partnership that should provide a flow of dual information from the educator to the parent about the student’s educational gains, behavior, and achievements. The partnership/relationship should also be an avenue for the caregiver to communicate key behaviors at home during the COVID 19 Pandemic that may impact the educational process at school.
An effective relationship will provide mechanisms for teachers to invite and support parents’ active participation in education in the home environment. Parents/caregivers have the best firsthand knowledge of the problems and situations the children may have experienced during the pandemic. Consequently, teachers need to foster a positive relationship with parents to take full advantage of the opportunity of understanding and meeting the needs of each child.
Reinventing the wheel could be time-wasting, considering that children are already suffering learning loss due to the COVID 19 Pandemic. Therefore, it is imperative to be proactive with establishing trusting relationships with parents by respecting and acknowledging that the parents are the primary educators and that they are a vital part of the needed village to educate the children served.
Steps must also be put in place to ensure disciplinary policies are modified to encompass the various components of social-emotional learning and restorative justice practices, irrespective of how difficult the process may seem.
Schools can begin by putting a system in place to target a social-emotional learning skill daily or weekly to be taught in school and shared with the family and community in an effort to ensure the child is being inundated with the concept and understands that they have global support, not just while at school.