Life During Quarantine #9: Education During the Pandemic

Hello everyone! I am delving into the hottest topic this week is Covid-19 and Education. So many dilemmas and it’s not going to be easy! My usual do some research and interview some folks became much more important than I thought. All answers will be grouped anonymously by question. I am lucky enough in my connections to have not only parents, teachers, school board members, school staff among my friends, but also, they are across the nation as well as all different levels. Many districts haven’t made a final decision.

As a member of Optimist International, I have had the opportunity to serve two school districts.

I think this topic will perhaps be in two parts: before and after a decision is made. Most schools are returning between August and September and the impact is incredible. I read an article from a school board member in the district I am most familiar with. As a member of Optimist International, I have had the opportunity to serve two school districts. During my first few years as Kensington Optimist, we went to one of the poorest school districts and gave awards to students monthly. Awards were given to students for attendance as the effort even just to get to school was a daunting task in most families. The other district I have been in for the past ten years is in Coronado. Though one of the wealthier regions many students are from military families and have challenges like parents deployed or changing school districts often even a few times a year. My mother was a fifth-grade teacher whose life calling was to educate. My sister works as an engineer for a school district. My cousin is a science teacher. In the 90’s I was a substitute in an International school. I suppose that is why I am very concerned about this topic.

“However, also consider the impact of the “health and well-being” of students if they cannot afford the opportunity to grow and learn, socially, emotionally, and academically in a classroom environment. Much social and emotional learning is only achieved when children are given the opportunity to sit and interact in an environment among peers and under the supervision of highly qualified, experienced teachers. Is missing out on that not equally as damaging to them in the long term than their risk of exposure to the virus? That question is rhetorical question and one that only their parents should answer with regards to individual family situations. Yet, it is also one that the district leadership must consider when determining how and when to fully reopen schools. Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer to my rhetorical question.”

1. What were your challenges when schools shut down?

As a parent having never been with family that many hours that was a challenge. My son had Zoom calls for class even Zoom class lunch. zoom three days a week wasn’t enough for him to feel connected. Currently, camp zoom calls twice a day have lifted his spirits.

Academic – How do I provide high quality, rigorous academic instruction, feedback, and assessment to students who are learning remotely?  How do I effectively guide them to using technology and learning platforms that they may not be familiar with?

Social/Emotional – How do I keep students connected with each other?  How can I help to maintain the sense of community that we had worked hard to establish?

My 2 sons did not do well with school being online, as they missed their friends terribly. The young one (12-year-old) was not used to computers, and not even knowing how to type was even a bigger hurdle to overcome. We needed to, suddenly, become “good teachers”, maintain a status quo of a good parent, and perform our jobs well. All that, at once, without prior notice, especially when we do not know anything about how to be a schoolteacher. Even our exceptional management skills are not enough to make this instantaneous transition.

My children are 3 and5. The 5-year-old had Zoom classes and really noticed the lack of social interaction. The disruption in K-12 education due to the coronavirus is way more than anyone could have imagined just a couple of months ago. A system that has relied primarily on face-to-face interactions in school buildings for generations is now operating almost entirely virtual. That big, rapid shift has dampened morale among both teachers and students, and it has exposed huge equity problems in K-12 schools. At the same time, it has forced educators to learn how to use new technologies, such as video conferencing, very quickly. That rush to use new technologies, though, opened the doors for a wave of data privacy and security problems, especially with the wildly popular Zoom videoconferencing platform.

  1. What do you think was the most difficult for the students you interact with?

Missing physical time with classmates.

Academic – Staying focused and on-task with learning assignments.  Students who were academically competent and/or students who had parents that were at home, were much more likely to attempt and complete required schoolwork.  Students who were already struggling in the classroom and/or students who were along during the day because their parents worked, tended to avoid even attempting the required schoolwork.

Social/Emotional – Students that had challenges developing and maintaining friendships were even more isolated.  They tended to become more introverted and they were less likely to call a peer or even participate in our zoom class meetings.  Even students that were very social before school closures seem to become less active, moodier, and depressed.  Several students expressed that they were stressed and didn’t know how to deal with it.

The uncertainty of when school might restart was a huge weight on them emotionally and affected the family.

More teachers are engaging in instruction now than in March. In fact, nearly all teachers (90 percent) say they are engaging in instruction now, compared with 74 percent in late March. Teachers are also engaging in more communication with students. The percentage of teachers who had had no contact with most students declined while those engaging in weekly contact nearly doubled during that time period. That said, some students are having more contact than others.

More than half of teachers (56 percent) in lower-poverty districts (with poverty rates under 25 percent) are interacting with their students at least once a day, compared with about 1 in 3 in districts in which three quarters or more students come from low-income families.

Science teachers and elementary educators who teach all subjects report the highest levels of daily contact. Special education and arts teachers report the lowest.

Pren Woods, a 7th-grade teacher at Alston Middle School in Summerville, S.C., sings to his students in class for their birthdays when school is in session. Now that schools are closed, he has called several students to sing “Happy Birthday” over the phone, continuing the tradition. Woods said he tries to pay attention to those kids who might be facing very difficult circumstances.

“When a kid says, ‘My mom doesn’t have a job and there are four of us, and she’s alone and I’m worried.’ That’s somebody I want to pick up the phone and call, and somebody’s mom I want to email,” he said.

Children do not have their teacher in front of them – the authority figure. They do not have their classmates next to them – peer pressure to behave well and stay on task at hand. 

  1. What will be the solution for the school district that you are in this fall?

Don’t know in WA as students return in after September 1 and it hasn’t been decided.

Academic – Because our school district is small, we have some flexibility in how we approach this situation.  The district is looking at all options including distance learning only, in-person learning only, and a hybrid model combining the two options.  Whichever model is chosen, I know that rigorous academic instruction is expected and that students will be held accountable for their work.

Social/Emotional – This is the biggest challenge.  There has been a steady shift in education and teaching in the last few years.  We are moving away from the “stand and deliver” teaching style to a more inquiry-based learning style which requires students to collaborate and work together on a problem or issue.  This also helps develop students’ social interactions, and it will be hard to replicate that learning opportunity via distance learning.

The school is still deciding whether to have online or in-person school. I am not a teacher and I do not have any inside knowledge about practical solutions for the school district.

This was from an article in June for the state of California.:” What plans are being made for California schools to reopen?

There is a widespread expectation that schools will reopen in the fall, but it is far from clear whether they will reopen in the same way they were operating previously. Most districts are still in the process of finalizing plans for reopening based on state and county guidance, as well as state law.”

The pressure to bring American students back to classrooms is intense, but the calculus is tricky with infections still out of control in many communities. The World Health Organization has now concluded that the virus is airborne in crowded, indoor spaces with poor ventilation, a description that fits many American schools. But there is enormous pressure to bring students back — from parents, from pediatricians and child development specialists, and from President Trump.

“I’m just going to say it: It feels like we’re playing Russian roulette with our kids and our staff,” said Robin Cogan, a nurse at the Yorkship School in Camden, N.J., who serves on the state’s committee on reopening schools.

Maybe it’s the loneliness or disconnection from colleagues and friends caused by stay-home orders and school closures. Or the frustration with the limitations and technical glitches of online learning. Or maybe the constant drumbeat of news about the rising coronavirus death toll, skyrocketing unemployment rates, and the uncertainty of what’s ahead is just too much to handle.

Whatever it is, the reality is that student and teacher morale is suffering (as reported by teachers and district leaders), declining considerably between March 25 and April 8. In March, the teachers and district leaders we surveyed reported that morale was lower than prior to the pandemic for 61 percent of students and 56 percent of teachers. This week, educators told us that 76 percent of students and 66 percent of teachers are in lower spirits than they were before the crisis. Teacher and student morale are especially low in the western United States. Compared to district leaders, teachers report lower morale rates both for themselves and for their students.

For most districts, the solution won’t be an all-or-nothing approach. Many systems, including the nation’s largest, New York City, are devising hybrids that involve spending some days in classrooms and other days online. “You have to do a lot more than just waving your hands and say make it so,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a professor of the practice at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “First you have to control the community spread and then you have to open schools thoughtfully.”

Millions more children in the U.S. learned Friday that they’re unlikely to return to classrooms full time in the fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as officials laid out new details of what lies ahead after summer vacation.

This is probably one of the biggest challenges the world will be facing because of Covid-19. I would love to have your input and hope to hear some enlightening stories as the students head back to school.


Cynthia Kosciuczyk, MBA
Cynthia Kosciuczyk, MBA
I took the less-traveled roads which led to many careers. Each of these contributed to my unique mix of expertise: science research, teaching, food, art, and textiles. Owning and operating my own businesses (a bakery, a gallery, and a consulting business) thrust me into the driver seat of learning many diverse roles from customer service to public relations and resulted in my unique management style. Participating in the creation of startups, working in design, and my own businesses and technology endeavors. My quest for knowledge and seeking out the best has turned me into a networking enthusiast. A lifelong passion for textiles and Persian rugs taught me an array of professional skills such as research, writing, and community events. Networking resulted in a multitude of business opportunities. My experiences include Management, Entrepreneurship, Sales, Design, Descriptive Writing, Business Strategy, Color, and Textiles. Every facet of my work and life comes together like pieces of a puzzle. I strive to be a phenomenal networker and problem solver who continues to learn and grow.

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  1. The health emergency we are experiencing and which has forced the suspension of didactic activities in the presence is accelerating innovative processes that have been expected for years but which failed to become a system. Among these, for obvious reasons, the use of digital technology to realize effective didactic paths also from a distance emerges. After the first enthusiasm, however, the limits also emerge: impossibility of replacing teaching in the presence with the digital one, difficulty in reaching everyone, reproducing and accentuating social differences (who can cope even in this situation, who lives in disadvantaged contexts cannot take advantage of digital teaching), technical difficulties, and more.
    The most positive aspect, in my opinion, is that it almost seems that the ongoing epidemiological emergency is bringing out the desire to overcome the clerical vision of teaching in favor of a new teaching professionalism characterized by responsibility, collegiality and enhancement of skills.