1. Race in America: The Race, Equity, and Justice Pandemic
Talk with your children/students about race and the impact that it has on them. There is no denying that they will encounter racial injustice and prejudice. They must understand racism and employ self-advocacy. Encourage them to tell you or another trustworthy adult when they’re treated unjustly. Ujima – It is our responsibility to work collectively and provide a safe place for our Black children to share information. Teach them about microaggressions and macroaggressions.
2. Promoting Antiracism
Be intentional in providing narratives centering Black history that counters what is being taught in schools. Introduce a Black teacher, inventor, doctor, lawyer, entrepreneur, engineer, chef, chemist, preacher, etc., that has made a difference in your community and beyond weekly. You may begin by sharing information about the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Lives Matter’s leaders in your community. Provide historical context and introduce them to individuals that are fighting for justice today. Virtual tours of Civil Rights museums with discussions and interviews featuring different activists are frequently occurring. Read and discuss a book, article, or blog about race in America, watch and review virtual presentations.
3. COVID-19 Pandemic
The pandemic has impacted Black and Brown folk more than others in the U.S. We are aware of the subpar health care, living conditions, and resources available to Black people. When these variables are paired with COVID-19 and underlying conditions come into play, we experience higher death rates and chronic effects from battling the virus. This harsh reality directly impacts our children/students. There are accounts of more teenagers engaging in reckless behavior, including erratic driving, gun violence, and suicide attempts (Gunnell, et. al, 2020). Many adjust to different learning environments while coping with long-term grief and living in fear of the unknown.
4. Helping Our Children Process Their Emotions
Be compassionate, flexible, and a source of comfort. Children may not be able to articulate their feelings fully. They may demonstrate feelings of being overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, or angry by retreating, having behavioral outbursts, hyper-focusing on a specific topic, appearing disinterested, or displaying various other actions. Let them know that you “see” them. Allow them to share their feelings without judgment honestly. Help them redirect feelings and behaviors that are not in their best interest. Remember, it is not only okay to seek professional counseling but ideal when our Black children are dealing with surmounting trauma.
5. Virtual learning: Screen fatigue is real.
Students in virtual environments are suffering from screen fatigue. Before COVID-19, Bach (2019) published “5 Tips for Reducing Screen Time”, which indicated that children should not engage in more than two hours of screen time per day. Headaches and difficulty concentrating are side effects of too much screen time. Additionally, some students are accessing screen devices where lighting is less
than ideal. They are often sitting in positions that lead to chronic body aches. Making our communities aware of the effects of screen fatigue and providing examples of ways to lessen its impact supports students’ academic growth and development. Consider designing lessons that require screen time for 20 minutes, follow up with a 20-minute activity or assignment that doesn’t require a screen; this will help lessen the effects of screen fatigue. When designing lessons, activities, and assignments, incorporate the students’ context into your delivery. They should be able to connect with the content and the implementation. Enhance your cultural competence and ensure that the knowledge and skills covered are culturally relevant. You can begin by consistently linking their interests, backgrounds, and experiences to lessons and activities. Furthermore, be intentional, set a schedule that includes breaks. How do you function when you are uncomfortable, irritable, in pain? Play music and get everyone up and moving. Take time to lead them through a focused breathing meditation. Break up the monotony. You will benefit from it too. Remember, we work with children. They will be off-task sometimes. Have some grace. Redirect as needed. Be flexible and keep them moving forward.
6. Communicating with Educators/Parents
Parents maintain open lines of communication with educators. Educators encourage parents to communicate with you if they have concerns about their child’s performance. Provide ways to interact with educators. Would they prefer their communication through email with an administrator or a counselor? Tell them what you are observing, your concerns, and ideal outcomes. Give it some time. If progress is not happening as you believe it should, then schedule a meeting to discuss your concerns. Virtual or face-to-face meetings are an option. Remain open and willing to try new things. It takes a village to raise a child. We are responsible for facilitating this collaborative educational environment and establishing open communication that promotes academic success for Black children.
7. Advocating for Our Children
Voice your thoughts but ensure that it is cohesive and clear. Note your concerns, include examples, and prioritize them before the meeting. Be willing to listen and work collaboratively. However, they must have consistent supporters. Our children must trust that we will navigate their educational paths along the most beneficial routes.
Our students also depend on us to advocate for them in good and bad times. Reach out to the family when you have concerns and share victories, even the small ones of struggling students. Provide clear examples. Ask about the learning environment if the student is remote/virtual. Many families are overwhelmed, as we may be, and need reassurance, grace, and resources. Maintain a list of community services that you may refer parents to or connect them with the school counselor for further assistance. Plan with your student/child. Planning is key to academic success over extended periods. Our children must engage in the planning process. Discuss the anticipated outcomes and steps to reach their goals with them. Allow students to be active in helping shape their plans. Consistency is a must. Work together with them to establish a set schedule that includes all educational expectations.
8. Planning for Academic Success
Begin with a weekly plan, include their get-up-time and bedtime. Block out in-class time. If the student is virtual and the class ends early, what will they do with the extra time? Set aside time for homework and study. Make it clear to the student that studying and doing homework are two different things and have two distinctly different outcomes. Once again, make sure you schedule adequate breaks into the plan. Providing stability and consistency improves the student’s overall wellbeing. Offer this information to other parents and educators, especially with struggling students. An example may be beneficial. Remember, education may not be a top priority during these unprecedented times. Give practical support, realistic expectations, and offer hope.
Dr. Sandra Cooley Nichols~ It is with great pleasure I bring you the 2021 ABEN inaugural Isis Papers post. I am Dr. Sandra Cooley Nichols, a Black woman, educator, mentor, activist developer, advocate, community member, wife, mother, daughter and friend. My professional experience spans more than 29 years in higher education and P-12 education system as a teacher, administrator, and professor.
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