All Behind Together

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COVID19 has forced us into a situation few of us were prepared for — shutdowns, school closures, an invisible threat. We’re trying to make the best of it. Kids stuck at home, parents/caregivers working, many decisions are out of our control. I also see people seeking relief however they can. Pandemic life is being extended in increments, just when signs of reopening glimmer through, a pause button gets hit again because it is unsafe to move fully forward. Societal commitments to thinking through the greater good are strong in some places and frayed in others — wearing facemask, not gathering, thinking about our personal desires versus acting in the best interest of everyone.

Many school districts are announcing the continuation of remote/distance learning since COVID19 makes it unsafe to return to classrooms and many are seeking out ways to return to some normalcy. As we move forward we should pause and say it is ok to be behind right now, as my friend Carrie said we should be “all behind together.” Now isn’t the time to act in self-interest or the best interest of just your own kids, now is the time to stay in step with everyone else. The actions we take or don’t take will help to close or widen opportunity gaps.

Artwork by Maria Toro, via

Families are beginning to think about returning to school in fall. Many school districts across the country have announced students will not return to in-person school. With these announcements parents/caregivers are scrambling for solutions and relief. Numerous news articles, Facebooks and Reddit threads have started about the topics. It feels like the latest “it” topic of the pandemic, which in turn becomes the latest privilege/shame/blame topic. There is no normal right now — everything is changing rapidly and with this we need to adjust our expectations. Carrie reminds me “normalcy is a white and ableist mindset.” 

As families begin to think about the fall we need to think about others. This is the time to remember it is ok to “be behind” and not seek out advantages because the opportunity presents itself. Forming a pod and hiring a teacher/tutor to benefit a few students gives a lucky few an advantage. The arguments for it are “I don’t want my child to fall behind,” “I’m not a teacher, I don’t know how to teach my child,” “we were counting on school,” “my kid hates Zoom.” The counter arguments to all of this is we’re all in the same situation and for the betterment of everyone it is ok to be behind, very few of us are teachers and if you are rarely do you teach your own child in a professional setting, and Zoom is hard for many including adults. These exceptionalism behaviors hold back everyone in other ways too, it teaches children they are special and they can buy their way out of problems. It also teaches the “rules” don’t apply to them, they can gather with others because they are special and can do it safely, but the rest of society shouldn’t. My good friend who teaches at an elite private school said parents become enablers in situations like these, and they in turn create entitled children. 

Ironically, I’ve seen these same messages in the same groups where people are discussing the Black Lives Matter movement, the word “equity” was used in these same thread, and the paternalistic notion of “I’d let BIPOCs join the pod for free” were shared. Believing in the social justice movement means we need to also suck it up and hold back at times.

Mutual Aid

Several friends have mentioned they are forming “quaranteams” or versions of pods to seek out support from other families because they need the support. The mutual-aid is sometimes around watching children so others can work outside the house — especially for essential workers, or childcare relief to allow families a bit of respite, mutual support around cultural and language. 

Asking ourselves what the intentions of our actions are helps to differentiate are we using personal privilege to give ourselves or our children an advantage. A colleague who grew up in El Salvador reminded me, self-interest is often defined by our socialization and how we all act as a community. Some of these conversations he can intellectualize, but the emotions and desires are foreign to him since he was socialized in El Salvador. If we are all committed to getting through COVID19 together and acting in the best interest of all, we’ll come out of this faster and more unified.

I’m not here to judge if you do or don’t form a pod, or other decisions people make. Life is hard right now, no one is spared COVID19’s crowned-virus-ball of destruction. But in many ways COVID19 has also forced us to really re-examine how we live and what we value. COVID19 has shown our individual actions make a difference to the whole — us staying home in the early days of COVID19 flatten the curve in many places, our individual actions to advocate, rally, learn and listen are bringing about policy changes (albeit not quickly enough) for Black lives, what we do today will have a lasting impact on how education happens in the next decade. It is also a moment to pause and reflect on being behind together with people I like and care about.

Many thanks to friends and colleagues who added thoughts to this. Special thanks to Carrie Basas who provided “All Behind Together.”

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