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Wants and Needs During COVID-19
posted by: Tamia | April 28, 2020, 02:04 PM   

This week's guest blog is by AAEF Advocacy Fellow Tabitha Brown, teacher, mentor, and grade-level lead at Global Village Academy in Northglenn, CO.


In kindergarten, two of our social studies lessons include learning the difference between wants and needs and our relation to our community. These seem to be two lessons that may quell the current frenzy for action. I teach kindergarten and desperately want to be with my kids, to reassure them that things will return to normal, to give them time to engage with peers, and guide them in their exploration of their world. I need to do it digitally, I need to be home. 


Students across the state are complying with Colorado’s stay at home order. Learning has shifted from in-person to online. Our school surveyed the families and realized that our teaching needed to be accessible on a smartphone to access all students. Bringing our plan to the lowest common denominator meant our lessons needed to shift from a tactile model to something different. Essentially, our lesson plans are a guide for parents to try to communicate what and how to learn through the end of the year, week by week. My traditional concerns of how am I going to help the kid who is behind have shifted to how am I going to help that family get through the technology piece so that I better support them in their efforts to teach their children. And what about the learners who need additional support in the classroom — those students with and without identified special needs?


In 2018, 102,081 students were being educated under an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) according to The Annie E. Casie Foundation. That is to say at least 11% of Colorado’s student body is receiving additional support in their learning from the Special Education department in a school. I have students receiving support through speech therapy, occupational therapy, social skills groups, and academic support. All of this learning needs to be maintained. Teachers need to find a way to support this population in a way that will continue to support them. There are kids who are being monitored to determine if they are in need of additional services and distance learning means that all of those kids are not getting those services this year. As a teacher, I am looking for other ways to support those families.


I have a great desire to find a way to get into the classroom and help these kids in the way that feels most comfortable. I teach with objects in my hands all day long. Shifting this to online requires a lot of videos, animated slides and searching the web. There is a great debate about when can the economy reopen and when can everyone get back to their jobs and normal life? I want to be able to teach with the manipulatives and tools in my classroom rather than watching endless how-to videos to try to make my lessons more accessible and interactive. I want to plan summer travel, pool time, and a walk where I don’t avoid all my neighbors. But what I want isn’t what is best. My kindergarteners learn that our needs supersede our wants. Manage your need first, then see if there is a want that can be filled. Our need is to be home. Our need is to do the best with what we have, what we can learn and what we can figure out. We may want a haircut or time at the trampoline park or even to sit at circle time with the kids and give them a hug or a high five as they come into the school but those wants are based on desires for normalcy.


The only thing I can offer my students is to be available in the hope that I can connect with the kids and help them remember some of the learning we’ve worked on this year. I remind myself that I am available because I am lucky. I have work that I can transfer to my kitchen table so I can continue to meet the basic needs of the household. Many households across the nation are not as lucky. In the face of this pandemic families are seeing so much loss. Loss of income, loss of family or friends, loss of security, and a loss of routine. All of the loss creates depression and anxiety. Much like the desire to enjoy a treat before a nutritious meal. Our feelings can be managed, feelings can be shared, feelings can be supported, our feelings are our reaction to our experiences and we have power over our reactions. However, our feelings do not always guide us to what might be best. Our feelings are very important but they should not dictate our every action. I meet with my students twice a day not to ensure their academic success, but to be there for them. Providing them with an opportunity to see their friends and share their toys, pets, and stories as well as an opportunity to feel connected to their former routine is as important to them as it is to me. Our plans for the end of the year have been cancelled for our students but the opportunities to connect with our humanity have grown.


In kindergarten we learn a lot about the parts of our communities and how members of the community help for the wellbeing of all.  We can offset our feelings by engaging in positive ways. How can we be helpful at this time? What does your community need? A balcony happy birthday? Sidewalk chalk art for isolated walkers? A ridiculous video to give cause for laughter? How can you support your community while keeping everyone safe? In kindergarten, we learn to be grateful to those who choose community service. With this pandemic it becomes even more important to recognize the importance of that gratitude and find ways to express it. All of us are part of the community of Colorado. Building our community as a classroom, school, neighborhood, city, state, and country is positive work that we can contribute to. I thank everyone who is risking their life to support our community. I encourage everyone to help us all by staying home.

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