Clara Barton teacher: Asking ‘young learners to advocate for their education’

The Southwest Journal is documenting the coronavirus pandemic by recording the personal stories of Minneapolis residents and workers whose daily lives are in a state of flux. As the outbreak evolves, we will be checking in with the participants regularly. Read all of the stories here.

All interviews are conducted over the phone, and conversations are edited for length and clarity.

Tracey Schultz, science teacher, Clara Barton Open School 

I’ve been working really hard on getting my class set for after spring break. The logistics get really complicated because now all of a sudden, I’m thinking about how can I help 150 students from my house.

The district is going to let us do Google Meets. So that means when I host office hours, I’m going to be able to have live interactions with kids. It won’t just be this trading email business. 

We continue to be super concerned about kids who don’t have devices. That’s the real struggle and worry. We struggle with equity issues all the time, but in the walls of my classroom, there’s a lot of equity issues that I can tackle. I think my colleagues and I feel really powerless right now about the devices, because we don’t have an ability to get a device into a kid’s hand who needs it, and we don’t know when that’s going to happen. 

Overall, I feel optimistic about our health. Of all of the kids I’m corresponding with, so far everyone has said they’re healthy and their family is healthy. I feel like our governor has been pretty aggressive about trying to flatten the curve, so I feel optimistic about that. 

I’m not to that point of optimism yet with the online learning, but I’m hopeful. If every kid gets a device and online access, then my hope can become optimism.

We’re asking a lot of kids and families right now. We’re asking really young learners to advocate for their education in a way that they’ve never had to do before. Up to this point, it’s, “Go to school every day.” Now it’s, “Get online every day. Get a device in front of you. Turn it on. Get to the right place.” We’re expecting they can be way more independent than any of them have ever been before. 

We just need to make sure that everybody has the tools that they need. This is like the crux of these gaps that we have in education right now. Take the pandemic away and put us back in regular school; we still have a system where there are large numbers of kids who don’t have what they need to be successful in school. Every day. That’s no different than right now.