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Check On Your Educators And Your Students

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Stress Abounds For All Of Us

We are now getting into 15 months of this pandemic in Ontario, and the charm has long since faded. We have probably baked as much homemade bread as we're going to, toilet paper is no longer something we hoard, and we have somehow fallen into something of a groove as far as continuing learning experiences for students go.

The problem is, this learning experience, while something that is necessary due to the pandemic, is starting to wear thin and both kids and educators are starting to crumble under the ongoing pressure that is trying to learn and educate while online. While many students appear to be doing well with online learning - they've been able to be fairly self-directed as they've worked hard to be successful and make the most of the learning experience they can right now - but there are also many who can't take that same advantage.

See, while so many of us have learned that we can make the online learning experience work for us for a wide range of reasons, for many of us, those reasons boil down to privilege. We might simply be able to afford the resources - internet and some sort of technological device - we need to make online learning work, but there are those who still have to make the choice between internet and food or internet and rent, and that is not a choice any of us should have to make. Some kids might be in a situation where they have little choice but to work to help support their families, as the pandemic has forced so many to stay home as their businesses close, either temporarily or permanently, and between the stress of that and their own personal exhaustion, they are not able to concentrate on their studies as a teenager should.

We as educators know there are kids out there in these and other similar situations, and the problem is, there is so very little we can do to support these kids through this global crisis because they are on the other end of a technological lifeline that might be very tenuous in its existence. From a cognitive standpoint, kids who have routinely struggled with school due to cognitive disorders or delays or other such issues may find that online school is the absolute worst thing for them. They struggle enough in a regular classroom and now, trying to make those connections to their education and to their educators becomes that much more difficult, which means they are at greater risk of disengaging from school altogether.

Educators know this is happening, and we are doing everything we can to try and reach out to these kids and, if nothing else, remind them that there is someone who is willing to support them through their education even in the craziness that is pandemic learning. The problem is, we also know an online learning platform is very difficult for these students who might be dealing with cognitive or developmental issues that will make their learning more challenging than it already might be.

Knowing that there are fewer options to help these kids makes us feel completely helpless, and as educators, that is a feeling we aren't necessarily accustomed to. We deal with kids who are struggling through life every day of the week, and we are able to sit with them individually over lunch hours or after school with their notebooks and not have to worry about them trying to navigate the online learning platform properly. Much as we might say to our students that if they have problems they can reach out to us via email or unmute themselves on the Google Meet chat, there are a handful of students who probably should ask for help but find the technological bridge too hard to move across, and so, they disengage. While these issues are beyond our control, they are still heartbreaking to feel, because while we might try to apply the policy of no news being good news when it comes to students not communicating with us, when we don't hear from these students who we know routinely struggle, we know they are starting to pull back.

Can educators reach out and contact kids? For sure, but there are no guarantees that the students in question will actually say something because there is so much about this pandemic as it comes to their education that it's entirely too overwhelming. So we feel helpless while we try to keep the wheels on the online education bus still spinning for the rest of the students and watch while the gap between us and them widens in spite of our best efforts.

While we need to continue to show each other some grace through this pandemic, we need to keep in mind that students and staff are struggling hard. Online education can only go so far and be so helpful from both an educational standpoint and a mental health one. Let's support each other and throw some extra support behind those struggling students.

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