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By: Jazmin Salcedo
Jumpstart Alum, 2012-2017
I am a first generation Latinx in the Los Angeles area. I am currently in my second year of grad school at UCLA to receive my Masters in Education. I will be starting my first year of teaching virtually, and I feel a sigh of relief that I will not be putting my students, their families and my community at risk.
I have many mixed feelings about how society is viewing our educators and school employees. Initially, educators were being praised for transitioning their classrooms to online platforms so quickly, and without hesitation, teachers continued to get the job done. Everyone around the country began to show teachers huge appreciation for the workload they do year-round, and it seemed like there was a glimpse of hope for teachers to be valued more.
As soon as the school year ended virtually, there has been a huge ongoing debate about reopening schools worldwide. Why are we debating the lives of many? Lives should never be up for discussion. This pandemic is real whether you want to believe it or not. I have witnessed people who have caught COVID and are fine, and others who are struggling hooked on ventilators.
The people in power who keep encouraging our schools to reopen don’t have to think about these questions because they have access.
There are people in power who have voiced their denial of science when it comes to COVID, and have urged others that it is safe to reopen our schools. These same people who have voiced their approval for schools to reopen are disregarding our low-income communities, who are at a higher risk of being affected. A million questions come to mind when I think about schools reopening or not reopening. How do you expect our classrooms to cater to social distancing when our roster is more than 25 students in a classroom? Will educators and school employees be given COVID tests regularly? Will face masks be provided to each child everyday? Will schools be provided with cleaning supplies for classrooms? Will students have access to a basic necessity, such as water? Because sharing a water fountain is out of the picture. How about technology accessibility? What about our working families who cannot provide support around the clock if their child is on Zoom? How are teachers expected to assess their students accurately? What about a student who doesn’t have access to breakfast or lunch? The people in power who keep encouraging our schools to reopen don’t have to think about these questions because they have access. We cannot expect everyone to receive an equitable education during this pandemic without first reflecting on our positionality and privileges.
As a first year teacher, I wish I could teach from my classroom and enjoy the year, but I will not disregard that COVID is affecting our Black and Brown communities the most. Moreover, distance learning has highlighted our pre-existing educational inequities in our schools. In our low-income communities, our students do not have access to stable internet connections, or a device. In addition, some students do not have a quiet environment or even the space for it, while others may be sharing a device with their siblings. Other times, their parents or caregivers work all day and the student does not have the proper tech support they need. These are just some of the factors that may impede a student’s success compared to a student in an affluent community. I am constantly reflecting and thinking about my students, how can I accommodate their needs and prepare them for this world. I am socially aware of how our country has failed our Black and Brown communities, and I feel determined to advocate for my students and give them the proper resources through this school year, virtually. I am anxious and nervous, but I am mostly excited to build our community while learning alongside them.