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Parent perspective: Finding beauty in the ashes with online school

Editor’s note: This article was written by Tuneisha Harris, whose son just completed his sophomore year of high school in the Cherry Creek School District. Tuneisha is a notary public, an investor in foreign exchange markets, and a volunteer at Safehouse Denver.

This past school year has been full of lessons, blessings, loss, death, obstacles, adventures, and challenges.

My son was a sophomore, and he chose online school because there were no clear-cut safety protocols in place for the COVID-19 pandemic during the time he needed to choose in person or online. He struggled with online school because he lacked the in-person interaction with the student and teachers.

I loved the fact that we were able to spend time together during the day. Our bond became much stronger. Working from home allowed me to see what his school day consisted of. When he started online school, he was extremely stressed because they had many technical issues with the expectation that students finish their assignments on time. 

They also told the students that they would attend class once or twice a week and homework would be due the next week. My son struggled with the new regime because he was expected to catch on quickly and be responsible for assignments and attending classes as if he were in college. 

I reached out to his teachers and expressed concern and was told that this was getting him prepared for college, and also teaching the students accountability. I then realized that I would have to really step in and become the educator for my son and not leave it up to the teachers and administrators at the school.

I started listening in on the online sessions with him so then I could answer any questions he had. I will say that online school was neither good nor bad but a good lesson on perseverance and tenacity. My son had to learn to never give up even when it seemed that all the cards or books were stacked against him.

Together my son and I learned to acknowledge our shortcomings and work toward making them strengths. I realized that I was impacted this school year as well. I became stressed for my son and his success. I was not focused on my day-to-day work that I needed to complete, I was concerned for his mental health and how I could be an asset.

I had to find an equal balance for school, work, and home life. I started looking for tutors and individuals to assist me in helping my son become a successful student but also who could help take away the pressure and stress of getting his assignments completed. This turned out to be a wonderful idea and by the second quarter of his sophomore year he had a 3.5 GPA.

I had to find the beauty in the ashes with online school. I loved the fact that I had more time to spend with my son. I was able to see his growth spurts and awesome personality. I saw his strengths and weaknesses, allowing me to speak life over the strengths and build up the weaknesses.  He is truly a beautiful soul who is destined for greatness. I know that he will do great things in this world because he is dedicated and committed to being the best version of himself.

One thing  that I found troubling was the excess work that was given to the students. There seemed to be busy work given but not of any substance that could be used in the real world.  This would have been a great time to teach about entrepreneurship, becoming business owners, learning about the stock market, trading, and creating wealth. Allow the kids the option to learn something new outside of the standard classes and specialized classes. 

We all know that the transition to online school or a mix of in person /online school was due to the pandemic, however there seemed to be no conversations about the impact that it had on students, teachers, and families. Yes there were newsletters from the superintendent but nothing more.

Families’ worlds were rocked through deaths, separation, financial woes, and it seemed that schoolwork was used to cover over the trauma.  Mental health discussions should have been had regularly with students’  parents and staff so there was an outlet for release and awareness of the different situations that may arise.

As I reflect back on the school year, I will say that my son going to online school was a blessing for us. We were able to bond, grow up together and find the beauty in the ashes and trauma.  I am grateful and thankful that  I was able to be at home with him and help in the areas he struggled and turn the struggles into strengths. I look forward to him attending school in person this fall so that he can have the social interactions with students but also have the in-person interaction with his teachers.This is what he realized about his learning  style. He needs the in-person conversations, the sitting in the seat in the classroom and to be amongst other students to learn effectively.

All in all, I am grateful for this school year through all of the adversity and pain points. It showed me that when faced with adversity to go with it and not against because you come out stronger, wiser, and resilient.  We are conquerors!

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