Two very excited little boys are starting back at school
No matter how hard we try, remote learning can never replace in-school education
By the end of the Taoiseach’s address, there were two kids ecstatic, two disappointed, one devastated and one indifferent
All the kids sat down with me to watch the Taoiseach’s latest address to the nation last week. When I say sat down, two of them continued wielding lightsabers in an intense and focused battle as good attempted to overcome the dark side of the force, because that’s generally how life plays out here, irrespective of the level we’re in. But they knew this man on the telly held their fate in his hands, so they stayed in relatively close proximity.
And when it was confirmed that my youngest two would make their way back to school on March 1st, the cheer went up. “Only three more days of homeschool”, the youngest exclaimed leaving me in no doubt as to exactly what he’d thought of Múinteoir Mamaí. The middle children looked on enviously, upon hearing their time to return to primary school was a few weeks further away yet.
But for the teens things were different.
I had prepared them for the news expected but one was still willing it to be a different outcome, disbelieving that he might really only end up with little more than a month in school before the school year ends. I’ll still never understand why a calendar reshuffle wasn’t considered.
A tale of one household – by the end of the Taoiseach’s address, there were two kids ecstatic, two disappointed, one devastated, one indifferent, and one still streaming lectures in her bedroom.
We don’t have a great history in this country when it comes to looking after our women and children. And so it continues.
With almost a year having passed since the first school closures, children have amassed a grand total of three and a half months in the classroom – in spite of the widely accepted damages caused by school closures. And though, in this house, we welcomed news of the younger children’s return, with a significant number of weeks still to go before most of the country’s teenagers can expect to be back in the classroom, one might wonder if there was any appreciation of the impact of school closures on this age group at all.
Parents tell me they’re struggling to motivate their teens, to even get them out of bed sometimes
Mental health professionals tell me they’re overwhelmed by requests for support from teenagers who are struggling to cope with the isolation and separation from their peers, the absence of their outlets, and their missing of the in school experience as they gaze daily into a tablet or computer screen – if indeed they’re lucky enough to have one. Remote learning can never replace in school education with all the additional experiences and supports it provides.
Parents tell me they’re struggling to motivate their teens, to even get them out of bed sometimes, as the weeks tick by and they become more withdrawn and disillusioned with it all. They tell me of anxiety, stress, meltdowns and distress but still the message is that teens can manage remote learning – a one size fits all approach – that seems to forget the very essence of who teens are and how essential social contact and peer support is to them.
Teachers tell me it’s getting harder to keep students engaged, that online lessons have become quieter and speak of first years and the residual trauma of leaving sixth class one day in March 2020 never to return, only to find schools closed again to them for an even longer period this time, while they were trying to adjust to life in secondary.
And then there are the children who seem to have been forgotten about altogether.
Those with additional needs in mainstream education.
The children for whom home is not a safe place.
The teens clinging on by the fingernails for whom continued school closures will prove to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, and will not return, lost to the education system forever.
I’m already prepared for the wistful glances sure to occur as we pass by their classrooms
Our vulnerable children who feel and felt the impacts of school closures disproportionately.
But did anyone really care? Because how often has general acceptance been based on looking at the situation from a privileged and safe position?
This week, two very excited little boys are looking forward to starting back at school. One is especially looking forward to PE. The middle children will have to accompany me on the school run, as they’re too young to stay home alone and their older siblings will have online classes. I’m already prepared for the wistful glances sure to occur as we pass by their classrooms.
It will be chaotic as I try to juggle school collections, homeschooling, teen motivation and my own work but I’m ready to embrace the chaos knowing how happy my smallies are to return. I won’t even complain about making school lunches . . . probably.
Our kids have been heroes throughout this whole situation, and so have our teens.
But they shouldn’t still have to be.