I didn't log my children into remote learning the other day.
Around 4 p.m. Sunday we received the dreaded e-mail from Minneapolis Public Schools: "tomorrow will be an e-learning day."
My first response: "Nope, not doing it."
After taking a breath and gathering myself, my mature, second response was: "Nope, not doing it."
After almost two years of managing a pandemic with three children who are now in first grade, kindergarten and preschool, we're not doing it. My husband and I share parenting duties pretty equally; we all live under one roof, and we both work.
My husband is an economist, working in finance. I am a social worker, leading a local Twin Cities nonprofit. We both work for companies that are quite supportive of employees who are caught between a rock and a hard place, trying to both work and teach. And yet, with all the support and resources to manage this circus, we decided we're not doing it.
We're no longer twisting our lives into knots in order to make the impossible possible. We're not going to put a smile on our faces and pretend — as if a few hours' notice to pivot to home schooling is in any way, shape or form doable, acceptable or equivalent to in-person learning.
Parents want the best for their children, and over the past two years we've seen parents quietly and selflessly accept an unacceptable structure. Parents are losing sleep and sanity because good parents sacrifice themselves for their children. Good parents are martyrs.
But what if parents stopped being martyrs and said, "Hang on, this isn't working"? What if parents expected more for themselves, their families, their children and the structures that exist to support them? Might we all be better off? Might our children be better off?
Three things I notice about remote or e-learning:
1. Remote learning is not school. Let's stop fooling ourselves that remote school is just as good as in-person school. It is not, not by a long shot. In fact, let's stop fooling ourselves that remote learning is even a close approximate to in-person learning. It is not.
2. Parents cannot pivot. Let's stop pretending that parents can flip a switch and voila, be an employee and a teacher, seamlessly and simultaneously, with five-minutes' notice. Let's stop pretending the extreme stresses on homes, families and livelihoods don't exist. Let's stop pretending this structure is working.
3. Bars should never take precedence over school. Let's recognize the sad structure we are supporting where somehow I can eat at a restaurant, go to a bar, go to a sports event, but somehow my children cannot go to school. Full stop.
So, we're not doing it. We will not be in a meeting with colleagues while logging our children into their literacy lessons. We are not working in the evenings and the in-between hours in order to do it all. We are not doing it.
I believe, perhaps unpopularly, that remote learning should never have been an acceptable pandemic band aid. We never should have accepted what is now a crutch, used too quickly and too pervasively across this country. The mountain of evidence illustrating the social, emotional, academic, cognitive and physical backsliding our children have experienced over the past year and a half should tell us all we need to know about what we should be doing in response to pandemic safety. Closing schools should be last on this list.
If that's not enough, maybe if parents simply stopped logging their children into class, we'd all have to commit to a different approach. Parents' deep love and desire to do whatever it takes for their children, to help them learn and grow, has allowed for an unacceptable structure to be used too pervasively.
Parents should stop being martyrs, speak up, log out, and then our children will get the support and attention they deserve.
Caroline Hood lives in Minneapolis.