Written by Natalie Perkins
Fall is usually a time of excitement and predictability. Children get to shop for school supplies and stylish clothes, get fresh haircuts and hairdos, can’t wait to reunite with old pals, and meet their new teachers. At this point, exhausted parents are also ready for their children to return to school, and get them back on a normal schedule.
This fall is very different. Parents continue to await information from social media, the NEWS, and school districts to determine the best choices for their children’s education. Although digital learning may seem like a more safe and easier choice for some, every parent doesn’t have this choice. Some parents face challenges around access to technology and internet, time, money, level of support and education, and childcare which make digital learning less feasible. While there are other parents who choose in-person learning, as they may have more peace knowing that their children are learning and being supervised by a caring adult opposed to being left at home alone.
I’m a mother and teacher and this time has been very challenging. Like many others, my usual R&R in the summer was non-existent. From the outbreak of COVID-19 until today, I have maintained proactiveness while considering plans for my child. My daughter is a Pre-K student and has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Although my husband and I are concerned about how she should would continue to get services, our biggest concern is finding her a safe place where classroom sizes are low, masks are worn, and social distancing and frequent cleaning and disinfecting are enforced.
Making a decision about this year as a teacher was also difficult. I am still a big proponent of 100% virtual learning from home. With the constant changes, I wasn’t sure what this year would truly look like. I knew that virtual and in-person instruction would both come with a set of challenges. ‘How will I support my own child’s learning? How much time would I spend on the computer away from her? What boundaries will I need to set at work, if I decide to do face-to-face instruction? What would teaching and the culture and climate of my classroom truly look like, during this pandemic? What am I willing to risk? Will I have to walk away from my career to protect my family?’ So many other questions and thoughts went through my mind. Seeing “Sorry for your loss” on my Facebook feed, along with being text messaged that yet another family member, or friend has passed away or contracted the virus further increased my anxiety.
At the onset of COVID, I avoided doing some normal and necessary things for myself. For example, I avoided eating fast food (drive through or not), shopping at the grocery store, or getting gas. I refused to be in any public place with or without my daughter, for that matter. My husband made himself available to do it all. But to be candid, it still didn’t fully protect me against the virus. Even while wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, by my husband merely being around others, it made him more vulnerable which would ultimately impact myself and my daughter. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still very cautious and I continue to practice social distancing; however, despite my fears, the truth is: I must continue to provide and support my family. I take quarantining and social distancing very seriously. And sadly,I haven’t seen my sister in over a year and I went over six months without seeing my mother. I had to come to terms that this country has not quarantined with fidelity, and everyone isn’t as concerned about the virus as I am.
I continue to pray for my family and teacher friends across the country. Many of who, have, or live with someone who has pre-existing health conditions, yet have to make difficult sacrifices that greatly affect their livelihoods. To my fellow essential workers out there, we are the mere fabric of this country. The reality is that the country needs us for economic recovery, as it seeks normalcy. Whether we are fully prepared or not, we need to protect and cover ourselves. And I’m not just referring to wearing a mask, social distancing, or quarantining with fidelity. In a time of no resolve, we need a mandated covering in God– HIS peace that surpasses all understanding.
During these uncertain times, when you find yourself discouraged, reflect on this verse:
Fear not, for I am, with you; be not dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand.
Natalie McDonald-Perkins is an elementary school teacher from San Francisco, California. She earned her Master of Arts in Teaching with a concentration in Multicultural Studies, Social Justice Education, and Action Research from California State University, Fresno in 2015. Natalie has worked in the educational field for eighteen years and has been a teacher for 8 years. Throughout her entire career, she has been dedicated to serving marginalized Black and Brown youth. She spent most of her career teaching in Sacramento and East Oakland, California. Her most recent accomplishment is publishing her first children’s book “Best in Me.”