Distance learning is proving to be hard for a lot of students.
The mental impact of being at home, almost all of the time, is taking a toll. Students who are poor, have to worry about spotty internet, where meals that used to be eaten at school are going to come from and are juggling learning with assisting with childcare. And since Black and Latinx students are overrepresented in poverty, they are at the highest risk of falling behind in school.
There is, however, a bit of a silver lining. Some Black students are thriving with distance learning (DL).
The reason why? They say it’s because they no longer (or to a lesser degree) have to deal with racism and implicit bias in the classroom. With distance learning, some Black students report that teachers who were once heavy-handed on the bias, are too busy with maintaining DL to keep the bias up. The simple fact that DL is a struggle for all, to include educators, leaves less opportunity for teachers to act on their biases; and that has been a huge weight lifted off of some Black students’ shoulders.
We already know that dealing with racism greatly impacts the physical and mental health of Black adults, per several studies. In some cases, shortening our life spans, aging us prematurely, and contributing to a whole host of physical ailments. It really should come as no surprise that for Black youth, not having to worry about discrimination, allows them the space to focus more on education.
If you look at what Black students had to face pre-pandemic, it’s incredible how they are able to still push through. Black students are punished more often and more severely. They have to deal with hair and clothing discrimination. They endure stereotypes and biases from teachers who, in turn, single them out, spend less time with them and automatically deem them as problem students. Black students have to sit there and “learn” from texts that minimize or flat out ignore the damage of slavery and Jim Crow, like in Texas. They are less often placed in gifted classes, when they should be. They are the target of racial digs from their non-Black peers, that go unpunished by the adults in charge. There is a hell of a lot of racism in education and DL is sometimes providing a welcome break from it all.
Josh, a Black middle schooler, who is among a group of Black children who have been followed since elementary school, to chronicle their experiences in the American education system said that before the pandemic he was conscientious of how his teachers viewed him and constantly tried to combat it.
“I didn’t want the teachers to think I was the problem in the classroom, or what they thought of my skin color,”… “I just wanted to show them I was better.”
Josh, and kids like him, are having to expend a ton of emotional energy worrying about how they’re being perceived. Going above and beyond to be “model students,” when that energy should be spent, ya know, learning.
He says that since the pandemic and DL, he isn’t as sluggish and has more energy. A lot of this has to do with not being constantly under the watchful eye of biased ass educators. There is a sense of relaxation that comes with only having to interact with these teachers on a limited basis.
I have to stop here for moment, because if you’re not angry that there’s SO much racism in education, that kids are finding peace (and oftentimes thriving academically) in the chaos that is this pandemic and DL, something ain’t right with ya. Our babies shouldn’t have to go through this, y’all.
It’s not all sunshine and cupcakes, however. There is still bias in DL, as seen in the case of the Black boy who had the police called on him, by a teacher, for putting away a (neon-colored, plastic and obviously fake) toy gun. Or the many parents, who have secretly sat right off camera, to listen in on their child’s class; only to find the teachers talking down to, mistreating, and hurling racist words right at Black and brown students.
I mean, I don’t really have a point to this post, y’all. Other than to acknowledge that removing our kids from the physical presence of, or lessening contact with, educators – is giving some of these kids such peace of mind. I feel like I say or think this at least 5 times a week, but America is an absolute hot, shitty mess.
And with the pandemic surely to end at some point, I worry about what these kids will be thrust right back into….
When JanayB isn’t posting memes, scrolling through “wokebook” posts, ordering food and otherwise being your typical millennial, you can find her here destroying white tears and basking in her unapologetic blackness. Get in touch with her at JanayBsays@gmail.com