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A Time to Reach Out, Build, and Connect

A Time to Reach Out, Build, and Connect

I sit here typing in my home office looking out the large windows to our back yard. It’s a patio that at some point was closed in. I hear my son speak into his school computer to two of his teachers via Zoom meeting. His voice echoes from his bedroom, down the hall, through my bedroom, and finally to me while I ponder all the problems we’re facing and glance out at the ponderosa pines dancing in the breeze. I have been, as you may have too, bombarded by articles of COVID over the last several weeks. As I write this, our family is on week 6.

Some days I read or view something that brings me to tears like the message of frustration and desperation of a teenage boy struggling with the sheer volume of expectation and class workload amid our crisis and the placating responses he gets from his teachers and principal. His plea is “I can’t teach myself. I’m not wired to learn this way.” Some days, I am numb to it. Yesterday it was as if a fog had washed over me - I just couldn’t read anymore. Instead of digesting more bad news, I braved an hour’s sabbatical washing windows with the neighbor’s dogs and the resident nesting geese annoyed by my presence. Whether we’ve experienced tangible loss in the form of death or other means, each of us is struggling.

One expert recently wrote that the only way to provide true equity right now is to Give Them All A’s. No way, I thought when I first saw this, but it’s a compelling argument. The question that followed though was, is that a viable solution if Colorado schools remain closed into the fall as Governor Polis suggests is within the realm of possibilities?  It seems everyone has an opinion about the way forward. One article I read from The Atlantic suggests “parents can, and should, simply opt out” of the obligation to take over education in our homes. Perhaps, but that is not a long-term solution that will see us through closures that could go into the next school year, and it is certainly not something most parents of a child with a disability are willing to do - we’re already facing inequity and achievement gaps! 

As I sit watching the trees sway, I remind myself that the biggest losses our children are facing are not academic in nature. Aside from the economic fallout that will hit us in ways we cannot yet fathom, the issues of equity and accessibility, and the loss of loved ones what my mind turns to is the social and developmental loss. I am reminded of Stephen Hinkle’s presentations and speeches on “The Hidden Curriculum.” What we really learn in school is how to be a community, how to live together. I remind myself of this often - when worry takes over, when I look at a test score or when I become frustrated after all these years of advocacy, IEPs, heartbreak, and perceived failures (there are some triumphs there too). My child has everything inside of him to create a wonderful, successful, happy life in adulthood, and what he is really learning now is how to take risks, how to accept failure, how to be himself; how to be comfortable being himself, more how to be comfortable being himself among others. The academics will fall into place.

But who am I to make such claims? My husband’s job is “essential” and my work is stable. At the moment, we are sheltered from much of the storm that is sweeping our world. If I can keep my parents (my mother really) from going out, we might see my parents to their 50th wedding anniversary at the end of the summer, and maybe in the fall my father will see his 75th birthday - he is currently on home hospice doing very well with the care he is receiving, but without it, we’d have lost him a few months ago. That right now is my family’s biggest risk and it doesn’t add up to much in comparison with what others are facing.

One thing I know for certain is that this situation that we all are facing is revealing and exacerbating the many inequities that existed before COVID-19; there are large cracks in our foundation. How we move forward will show our true characters as national, state, city, county, and school communities. Our relationships and connections will move us forward. As Colorado prepares for a slow re-opening (we’re safer at home), how will you reach out to build, connect, and pave the road forward? Let’s seal the cracks in our foundation to ensure bright futures for EVERYONE. People with disabilities, our ethnic and racial minorities, and our families living below the poverty line should not bear the brunt of future crises!

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