On COVID-19 and Micro-schooling, Pods, and more

By Integrated Schools | July 22, 2020

As school districts have started rolling out their plans for the Fall, parents across the country have started to react. In White and/or privileged communities, we have noticed  A LOT of chatter about learning pods, or small groups, or micro-schooling. It feels like with each announcement, more and more parents frantically try to make individual educational plans for their own kids. 

There are lots of very thoughtful folks talking about this current phenomenon, and we want to acknowledge all of the great things they have said. In response to this Washington Post article, Prof R. L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy wrote this thread. JPB Gerald, (host of the Unstandardized English Podcast) authored this tweet, and Kass Minor, this thread. JPB Gerald and Mira Debs wrote this piece in The Washington Post. Courtney Martin and Garret Bucks published their letters to each other on the subject here and here. Clara Totenberg Green wrote this opinion piece in the New York Times. All of the thoughts here have moved us, and since they have all said it so beautifully, there’s no need for us to restate what they have already said. 

What we will add is that we recognize how easy it is to get swept up in the usual fervor of trying to get the “best” for our kids. But all too frequently, White and/or privileged families turn getting what is “best” for our kids into a full contact sport, to the detriment of our larger community. We also recognize that this is an incredibly difficult time for most people and that there are no good answers. So what to do?

We feel fully comfortable encouraging you to resist the urge to divest from the public school system entirely. Beyond that, things are complicated.  We get that there is a lack of leadership, a lack of answers, a lack of options – its not unreasonable to feel urgency – school starts in LESS THAN A MONTH for some of us. So as you are channeling that sense of urgency, consider this list of 10 questions we think are worth asking ourselves as we go about planning for the fall.  

    1. In thinking about my own childcare needs, am I thinking about solutions that do not further exacerbate existing inequities? 
    2. Am I clear on what is a need and what is a desire?
    3. Can I consider how I might be more focused on equity – on solutions for those with the most needs?
    4. Instead of thinking “how can I make sure my (privileged) kid doesn’t fall behind?” – can I ask myself, “how can I help to strengthen the public institutions we all depend on?”
    5. How can I channel my energy, fear, rage into demands that benefit ALL kids? Into supporting structures that will help my entire community?
    6. Are my solutions for my kids founded on an a fear of missing out on what my privileged peers are getting for their children, or on what my kids truly need?
    7. Can I think about what’s best for my child in the same way we think about public health  – that is, as something where the solutions lie not in maximizing individual benefit, but in working together for the greater good, as a community?
    8. Can I lean in to relationships in my community to inform my ideas about what may be needed for my community in the fall?   
    9. Can I consider giving my district a chance to offer support to the most vulnerable first – special education students, emerging English language speakers, kids who rely on school for meals, etc, before making demands that serve my kid?  
    10. Have I searched for local organizations (particularly those run by BIPOC) who are pushing for equitable approaches to these current situations and can I join with them? 

If we truly care about equity, we need to consider plans focused on the most vulnerable, not the most inconvenienced.

As our friend Garrett Bucks said to one of us via text a few days ago, “this is a moment to invest in shared common institutions, not to break off our own little piece of the pie.” And when we invest, we as White and/or privileged folks need to listen more than we need to lead. 

There’s the old adage, if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together. It seems like lots of White and/or privileged folks feel like we have to go fast right now, so we are going alone. Fear, energy, and a sense of urgency right now are understandable. How can we channel that to think about THE COLLECTIVE WE instead of our individual needs? To think about the difference between needs and wants – the difference between inconvenience and interruption? How do we think about putting all of our energy towards helping ALL of our community?

We reiterate that we know there are no easy answers, and there is no formula to make the “right” decision. However, we hope this list of questions and considerations can help you frame your thinking, just as it has for us. As people steeped in White supremacy culture, our instinct is to look out for ourselves, find the one right way, and do it quickly. We must do CONSCIOUS WORK to disrupt that pattern of thinking. What’s best for our community IS what’s best for our kids. When we slow down and move with thought and care, it will be more likely that our impact will match our values. 

A final note about THE COMMENTS – it seems like LOTS OF FOLKS ARE HAVING FEELINGS. We have read the comment sections of the articles, tweets and letters mentioned above, as well as our own social media, where this issue is being discussed- and they are spicy. So the last thing we ask you to consider is this: If what is being suggested really has you feeling angry, defensive, or frustrated, can we just sit in that feeling for a moment, and be curious about where it is really coming from? Defensiveness without curiosity turns into deflection. A lot of comments say “don’t shame parents for xyz…” and we want to remember that feeling shame is different than being shamed.

Sarah, our chapter leader in Houston, recently posted this on Facebook and we think it’s worth repeating here. “We White and/or privileged people often feel shame when we do racial justice work. Sometimes we feel so much shame we become frozen. I have had these feelings of “I can’t do anything right” as I have grappled with the legacy that my ancestors have left and the state of things today. This is White fragility and we have to work through it. There is inherent tension in this work. One White person or family cannot change systemic racism by themselves, but we are also not powerless. Our individual decisions DO matter and we can choose to uphold systemic White supremacy or dismantle it. This is one of those moments. We have to fight the urge of feeling powerless-we must work through it to understand and deal with the ways our privilege intersects with the system.”

Integrated Schools is growing a grassroots movement of, by and for parents who are intentionally, joyfully and humbly enrolling their children in integrating schools. Learn more >

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