I’ve worked so hard to not be a statistic that I actually became one. The pandemic slowed the world down and made us all open our eyes to one thing or another about our lives. I am no exception.
I am a single mother. It definitely wasn’t by choice, but nonetheless, I am the mother of a 12-year-old daughter, who I have worked and lived for since her birth. I had it in my mind that I wouldn’t be the statistic – I would be a mother first and a “single mother” far down the line of my identities.
I was a teacher and school leader who was almost always in school, furthering my education in order to move up the professional ladder and ensure my daughter wasn’t lacking in any area. Knowing the vast opportunity gap that exists for my Black boys and girls, I made it my business to create opportunities for my own daughter, even while fighting the inequities that existed in the classrooms and school I served in for my school-year babies.
Then, Rona came. When the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) emerged, the world stopped. While the face of education and teaching changed around the world, I faced an unexpected revelation. While I was out trying to change the world, one student at a time, my own daughter had been falling behind.
See, I moved to the good neighborhoods with the good schools. I researched the test scores and the ratings. I knew the curriculum that the schools were teaching and I saw her test scores. I thought I didn’t have anything to worry about.
Then, the pandemic allowed me to come face-to-face with the reality that my daughter, too, has been failed by the educational system I work so hard for. Being with my daughter 24-hours a day in lockdown allowed me to see what I had been missing–the lack of depth in her content knowledge.
I missed all the signs. Pre-pandemic, our lives had become limited to learning about each other in transit. From hour-long work commutes to pick her up from school peppered with talking, music and napping, to the short car rides to extracurricular activities, sandwiched between the completion of homework and dinner when we finally make it home – I saw my daughter merely as a student five days out of the week. I fought to squeeze in quality time with her on Saturday and Sunday as my child.
However, when she began her remote learning journey alongside the rest of the world, I carefully examined just how much the statistics ultimately applied to my child.
One article writes,
“Children in one-parent families also have lower grade point averages, lower college aspirations, and poorer attendance records. As adults, they have higher rates of divorce. These patterns persist even after adjusting for differences in race, parents’ education, number of siblings, and residential location.”
She wasn’t excited about the lackluster lessons of educators who weren’t sure how to translate their knowledge virtually. Out of her 6 middle school teachers, only 2 were consistent remotely. One being her PE teacher. Thankfully, her mother is an educator, but my lessons were met with disdain because the roles were now muddied and she desperately wanted her mother during this time, not me as her teacher.
So, after I wallowed in self-pity and self-imposed guilt for a few days in early April, I picked myself up and gave her what she wanted. Her amazing mother who just loved her and loved learning.
My mindset shifted from sadness and guilt to “So what?” and “Now what?”
So what if my daughter comes from a single parent household where her mother frequently missed parent-teacher conferences because they were held on the same day as hers with her students?
So what if my daughter doesn’t really want to go to college?
Now, what does that mean about her education?
It means that I am just like the parents I serve. I trusted my daughter’s teachers to impart a certain level of learning. I researched schools and neighborhoods that had good programs. I worked harder each year to afford areas that provided extra-curricular activities. I checked on her homework daily, making sure the work had a balanced, just-right level of rigor.
And she still lacked.
As I write this, I’m convinced that it’s not a “me” thing, or a “you” thing, but a system thing. All parents, whether educators or not, with two parents in the household or not, should feel a sense of security in knowing that their child is prepared sufficiently by the place that they spend much of their day in. It shouldn’t be camouflaged by test scores or grades.
For me? I’m at a crossroads. These few months, I’m convinced my daughter has learned more in the unconventional ways I’ve approached her learning – making everything we do a lesson, from creating and maintaining a household budget to rationing for meal prepping to analyzing conflicting viewpoints regarding the virus.
We’ve discussed the media portrayal of the virus in the African American community, the history of protests and watched numerous documentaries and other media on the history of injustices within the United States of America. She’s analyzed data from different sources, created time capsules and collages and read several pieces of literary work – all while starting a business.
Once I shifted my mind away from the lens of traditional learning, and just became her mother who happens to love teaching, I saw a spark of learning I hadn’t seen before.
And guess what? She never “missed” a day of school. Now she is more concerned with establishing generational wealth and not “college” for sustainability and can articulate the limitations of resources she has as a result of her race and not her mother’s educational attainment. She has more confidence now than she ever has.
I’m at a crossroads because the pandemic reintroduced me to my daughter. It has shifted how I see education, specifically her education. I can’t imagine sending her back to “school” but I also can’t imagine me NOT going into a school to dismantle this system for Black girls and boys who look like her.
I wish the answer was clear. Since it’s not, I’ll enjoy this meantime of learning, with the world as our classroom.