It’s Like This Doesn’t Work.

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I swear, I started this week feeling good.

My school’s equity team meets on Monday afternoons. It’s the time of the week I feel most connected with staff, that I feel like I do the most good for my building, that we work on some of our biggest problems.

This week, we talked mostly about those kids we are missing, the kids absent from our online meetings or whose gradebook is a growing collection of red-typed “missing”s, stacked one on top of the next.

We talked about what we can do for those students, where we may be facing a lack of encouragement or effort, but how much more often it’s a matter of access, a matter of Google Classroom falling far down the list of importance and immediacy in the face of all the things filling and disrupting lives right now.

I read too many things online this week from teachers getting angry with or blaming these kids. I understand that instinct, but I know it’s not right. I still believe that students give us the best they can on most days, and it’s up to the system to make that work. This week, I’m frustrated with the system, that when we look at the supports we have available, it doesn’t seem like enough.

We are finding that the size of our worry is far larger than our ability to do anything about it.

We are finding, as one group member said this Monday, “it’s almost as if this doesn’t work.”

Growing up, my family organized a lot of our stuff in old suitcases. There was one full of legos, one of toy cars, like three suitcases full of pictures and negatives that had been developed, flipped through, and thrown together. Another suitcase held puzzle pieces from years and years of half-finished puzzles, some big pieces for little kids, some bought in ziplock bags from Goodwill on half-price days that seemed like they probably had most of a puzzle in them. We never even tried to put a puzzle together, because it looked impossible.

That meeting this Monday started to feel like that puzzle box. Too many problems, not enough pieces.

I really did start this week feeling good.

The kids that we talked about are kids already often underserved in schools. So many from the list are kids of color, special ed, and English learners, or kids with home lives that make the stuff of school that much harder, or kids that fit a few of those things. Distance learning is hard enough, but it seems extra barriers are pushing some students, far too many students, away completely.

I spent a lot of hours this week worrying about those kids. I emailed and called and sent hand-written notes home: Just here to help, tell us what you need, how can we do something different for you… a few more names showed up, but not enough to feel like enough.

I spent a week in the puzzle box, trying to fit enough pieces together to make a picture, even partially.

It’s almost as if this doesn’t work.

I swear, I started this week feeling good. I ended it feeling beaten, exhausted, but no less likely to try again next week.

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