July 22, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 22, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Please Don’t Blame the Schools

While we all have had to adjust to a new normal or even a temporary new normal, I feel I have to respond to “The Forgotten Children of the Pandemic,” by Heather Feigin (June 18, 2020). While I have no doubt that the author comes from a sincere place both personally and professionally, I have to question some of her very extreme points and language. While she acknowledges “the heroic efforts of our teachers,” she no less scapegoats the schools for the “devastation that homeschooling is causing our children”—and the fact that some of the online safeguards had to be loosened, [so] “inappropriate content and at worst pornography, became rampant.” I can certainly understand the author’s frustrations during the past few months. And it should be noted the author uses the term “homeschooling” as opposed to “distance learning.” This is an important distinction. I agree that distance learning was not as ideal for anybody’s well-being including students, parents, teachers. But under the circumstances, our schools pulled together something amazing practically overnight.

Weeks before the March 12 shutdown, our school was preparing for what we thought at the time would be a two week school-at-home time. Nobody anticipated what our reality was going to look like. Beginning on March 12, Day 1 of our school shutdown at RYNJ, our administrators and teachers mobilized a day-long emergency distance-learning tech day. Besides the tech portion, we had team meetings and strategized what we thought would be the most efficient way to teach. Teachers reached out to others and offered further assistance, to make sure we were all comfortable teaching from home. Within a few days, the model we had been preparing for turned out to be crucial. Yet, it still required small tweaks, and schedules were adjusted to try to mimic a full day of school. Even the “specials” (art, music, library and STEM) were incorporated into the daily schedule.

And let’s not forget that even as teachers were maintaining their schedule, learning new tech skills and devising creative ways to reach their students, many families were going through their own personal issues at home!

Yes, Ms. Feigin, you are correct in many ways. Distance learning does come at a price and there are intrinsic shortcomings. Ideally, we all want to be in a normal pre-COVID school setting with our students for a whole host of reasons—social, emotional, academic—as you mention in your article. And, yes, while honoring special academic milestones has been traditionally celebrated in school, we have all witnessed how schools and shuls have found beautiful and innovative alternatives in making our children feel so special. I am very awed, inspired and touched by the measures taken by the schools and shuls. They have truly thought out of the box to make our community children feel that they were not missing out. They didn’t cancel celebrations, they just conducted them differently.

Ms. Feigin’s opinion that “homeschooling” is “devastating” is harsh, and blaming the schools for being an indirect cause of the rampant pornography (which I truly question) is mighty unfair. That’s where parenting comes in! Now more than ever, education must be a partnership between the school, the teachers and the parents. And so much more so during a time when teachers are not in the same room with their students. I am having a difficult time accepting the opinion that house rules, including device use, supervision, monitoring children’s online usage etc. especially when your family is at home, is under the purview of the school. Short of entering homes to teach children in person, what else could the schools possibly have done?

And lastly, in response to “Homeschooling for the 2020-2021 school year as a response to Covid-19, is not a viable or sustainable option for our youth” and “I implore the leaders” to make every effort to reopen the schools come fall, I have no doubt this is what all school leaders are currently pouring their energies into—finding the best resolution for all. However, bear in mind, we are still very much in a pandemic! As of this writing, we still haven’t heard from our government leaders for guidance. I encourage you to read a popular document that is currently circulating: “283 Questions About School Reopening: Preparing Our School Districts for Fall 2020,” written by Dr. David M. Aderhold, president of the Garden State Coalition of Schools. In this document, Dr. Aderhold outlines many of the issues and real concerns that need to be addressed before safely and responsibly reopening schools. My point being—don’t give up on some form of a distance-learning model in our future as we still may need to employ it in some fashion as we slowly make our way back to the building.


Esther Schnaidman is the librarian at Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey and lives in Teaneck.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles