While some governors and district leaders seem ready to wave the white flag of surrender when it comes to student learning during the COVID-19 crisis, others are showing resolve to do the best we can for students and adjust as needed.
Gina Raimondo is my governor here in Little Rhody and she refuses to engage in talk of throwing in the towel on student learning or prematurely closing schools for the rest of the school year. She is not about to fold up the tent in the name of equity as some big city superintendents have done because she is unwilling to let perfect be the enemy of the good.
She hears the concerns about our most marginalized students and she promises that we (teachers, parents, community leaders) will do our very best for them. And she readily admits that this new normal will be hardest for those students but also holds firmly to the belief that with ingenuity, collaboration and flexibility, we can get to an “adequate” place for all students.
Governor Raimondo knows that all of this will be messy but unlike too many others in positions of leadership around the country, she is walking willingly into the mess. I give her tremendous credit for that.
Raimondo had already pushed April vacation up to this week to buy time for schools and districts to get their online learning plans together. Today she announced that we will begin a two week period of distance learning Monday. She said we’re going to try it, acknowledged that we will learn a lot during the next two weeks and then adjust accordingly.
And she went on to say, “parents, this is gonna be rough.”
She also reminded everyone that distance learning does not have to be reliant on technology—she offered up the idea of students being able to pick up a book or a packet at the same time they pick up their meals. She is willing to consider options that don’t fall into the lazy binaries that have seemingly swallowed up too many people’s minds these days.
If ever there were a time to live by the words, “we’ll do the best we can”, that time is now. That doesn’t mean we turn a blind eye to the toughest challenges or kiss accountability goodbye—on the contrary, that would be a betrayal to the students most in need. But we can’t give up before we try because that would be a complete abdication of responsibility. Our children deserve us to try.
Thank you Governor Raimondo for choosing to try distance learning statewide, for being honest about how hard this is going to be for everyone, and for acknowledging that it will be far from perfect. Parents and teachers need to know that reasonable expectations are okay, that perfection is not the goal and that extending ourselves grace will play a fundamental role in us making it out the other side.