The Adventures Of Fatherhood – September 11, 2020

I have learned a lot from my kids since the pandemic hit.

Most of all I have learned adults need to be more like children when it comes to resiliency. I marveled this week as I watched dozens of students and teachers leave Worcester Prep Tuesday with their facial coverings firmly planted. It was the first week of school, but they already seemed conditioned to the coverings. As soon as Beckett got in the truck, I told him he could take his mask off. “Oh, I forgot about it,” he said. It struck me. He has adapted to these crazy times just fine. He’s going through big changes to his school life on a daily basis and he did not complain once this week. In some cases, they are unfortunate changes. When I think about all the aspects that have been robbed of these kids, it’s tough not to be disappointed for them. Through no fault of their own, they can’t do what they are accustomed to during these crazy times. We know he’s not cool with the whole thing, but he has accepted it and rarely complains.

For his part, Carson has demonstrated equal grace amid these strange times. To be honest, his first day of virtual learning this week was terrible. He was in tears within minutes. He doesn’t like being in Zoom sessions and detests seeing himself on the screen. Virtual learning will never be an effective mode of educating our special needs child. It doesn’t work. The school system knows this, fortunately, and it’s why the high-risk children will be first back later this month.

The good news is the next day was better for Carson. He and Beckett have both demonstrated perseverance, awareness and grit in overcoming some harsh realities. Let’s face it, kids are getting screwed these days, but it’s inspiring to me as I watch them weather the times.

The fact is virtual learning is an impossible situation for these kids as well as their teachers and parents. Nothing is simple. Each day is plagued with problems. There are frustrations all around.

I think the best approach is to take it day to day, but it’s easy for me to say as I am not home on the computer for six hours with our special needs son like my wife. Pam gives 110% to everything she does. She’s a perfectionist and goes all out or not at all. When it comes to her kids, she will do anything to ensure they are taken care of at all times. She takes this approach to life with her when helping Carson with online learning.

Carson cannot do virtual learning without a lot of help. There’s no way around that. We are not babying him or enabling him. It’s too complicated. He has special difficulties working against him, including the fact he doesn’t talk and will need a lot longer to complete assignments than others. He has an IEP and a one-on-one because he needs them.

At home, with virtual learning, his mom is his one-on-one. Being a guilt animal, I feel terrible for her and Carson because this is not healthy. She has a job here at the paper she can’t do. She, therefore, has no balance in her life. For his part, it’s bad practice for Carson’s maturation and independence to rely on his mom for so much. She’s his favorite person, but she should not be teacher and mother. There’s no way to navigate both responsibilities. It’s a horrible situation, including for teachers.

The fact is these teachers are incredibly limited. There’s only so much they can do through a computer screen. Their efforts and caring ways are present, but it’s clear the numerous problems associated with teaching through a screen are too robust to overcome if we are being honest.

There was a point the night before Carson’s first day when it hit us. At one point, while I was logging into his Schoology account, the frustrations from the spring returned. At one point, Pam let me know I was being rude and reminded me of the realities. She was right. I was wasting time and energy complaining rather than accepting the challenges that lie ahead.

Later that day, I saw an image circulating on social media about the new school year. It was appropriate and contained some good advice, though I don’t know the source of it.

“‘Twas the night before Distance Learning and all through the town, everyone was thinking how will this go down?

Students and parents and teacherse all wonder can I make this work? What if I blunder? Passwords, logins – do I have it all ready?

Easy now, take a breath, remember to steady. There will be blips, there will be unknowns, but we’re in this together, you are NOT alone!

One day at a time, this is not a race, a new journey for all, so please give GRACE. Grace to yourself and grace to each other; we WILL get through this, one way or another!

Students want to LEARN and teachers want to TEACH; families need to work, so it may be a reach.

BUT, patience and respect will guide us through this strange experience that is so new. I’ll say it again (and many more times), We’ll work this out, things will be JUST FINE! Here we go folks, this could be a while; just remember to be KIND, and of course to SMILE!”

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.