Over the past couple weeks a veil lifted from my chest. With every conference cancellation, every cancelled practice or tournament, every closure, I watched myself and my children become lighter. Our eyes brightened; our moods lifted. This is not a coincidence.
My family’s life has become this prescribed, continuous forward motion where there is some practice, some activity, or some work travel scheduled every day. And we aren’t the busiest people we know. When I looked at the clean white wipe board with zero family activities and zero reminders, I started crying. Not because we are missing out but because for the first time in forever, we are free.
I’ve always felt like daily life was a dam, barely holding back the destruction of life’s crushing waters. I felt myself the keeper of our fragile scenario, the Dutch Boy with not enough fingers to plug all of the leaks. I felt like that was my fault. I felt like if I only had one more hand, one more hour, just another driver, one more weekend… I could just… save us. Insane.
There are holes in my dam, your dam, society’s dam. Holes that have gone ignored for generations. Holes that leak and make us believe that this is how it should be because it's always been this way. But this pandemic is making us face these holes in ways we’ve never had to before. COVID-19 has become the largest sociology project of our time, if not a precursor to what the future holds.
Inequity in access to technology is exacerbated by the expectation that schools can just transfer to online formats without the forethought that some children have no hardware or broadband at home. An inadequate understanding of the relationships between parent, child, and school has districts believing that teachers can just assign tasks to students or give parents packets without training or education on how to manage learning for kids. Ideas around work life balance and what is expected of working parents means that industry must go on even if parents are also expected to ensure their child’s education continues. The lack of professional respect for teachers is further illuminated by how quickly governors and districts closed schools without providing educators adequate time, training, and tools to fully connect the learning with students distracted by a myriad of issues associated with this pandemic let alone the variety of traumas some students experience each day.
Higher education released many students from school early because they could not support the potentiality of a campus-wide epidemic. Now professors that have never had to use online tools to teach are expected to pick up distance learning and engage in world class teaching from their kitchen tables. Though understandable at one point, it is unacceptable to tell students to pack up at a moment’s notice. Some students aren’t safe at home. Some students have no money to return home. Some students are on a visa which requires a lot of paperwork and other uncontrollables. Some students aren't able bodied and require supports that home can’t provide.
The standardized testing infrastructure was, to a point, functioning business as usual. How are states really going to pull off standardized testing if this continues through June? Does the College Board really believe that high school juniors and seniors can gain the focus required to prepare for AP tests. Some of these kids are the childcare for their parents during the day while others may not have the adequate resources to study and prepare for the test.
We are not thinking ahead to our elections and the inevitable long lines we ignore when everything is running smoothly. What are we to do if this pandemic extends beyond the summer? Do we have safety measures in place to protect our election under extenuating circumstances? We can’t even protect our elections when everything is “normal”.
There’s a bit of selfishness in this country. The idea that we shouldn’t take care of those most vulnerable by sacrificing a few moments with large groups just to allow the tide to recede. Our vulnerability to misinformation and the desire to ignore facts when they don’t align with our ideologies, has caused people to ignore very serious warnings that could play out as fatalities later on.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s the pressure on families to sign up for sports, dance, and lessons. There’s the complete ignorance about how the virus is spreading amongst our homeless and shelter populations. We haven’t discussed our poor health system in enough depth because it is seen as a partisan issue and not a human rights issue. There are so many holes.
How do we believe that any of this is ok? Why are we pretending that this isn’t our moment to analyze society and what we call "normal"? Why are we praying to return to the insanity of our regularly scheduled lives? This is our time. This is our moment. In our physical isolation we must meditate on the structures and values and archaic routines that keep us tired, overwhelmed, depressed, and emotionally disconnected from others.
Why do we believe we have to hold on so tightly to a livelihood that isn’t really working for anyone? Take some time while you’re home to really analyze if you’re happy with your “normal” life. Maybe take a moment to think about if this new way of life had to persist for six more months or a year, what would you do? This is bigger than just not signing your kids up for something or finding a better job. It’s deeper than just deciding to start homeschooling your child completely for the rest of their K12 experience. It’s bigger than just being nicer and more civil to your neighbors. This is about a shift. I’m not talking about a radical dismantling of society because the last time that happened my ancestors were slaves, women were property, and there was mass genocide of indigenous people in the name of creating a brave, new world. In light of all of this, there are far more equitable and holistic solutions available to us and this moment in time might be our chance for a soft pivot.
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working to make life more equitable for all people. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.