If you’ve ever endured an emergency, you know those sirens mean help is on the way. No doubt we are in an educational emergency. When I learned that most schools were going to continue the online learning format, my heart stopped. Semester two of 2020 was, in my view as a teacher, parent, and grandparent, a colossal failure, and a setback of epic proportions for many young people and their families. Kids were largely confused, depressed, and disengaged while teachers – many of whom are long time institutional thinkers – generally failed to rise to the occasion. I couldn’t imagine another lost semester. There is so much at stake.
School systems summarily dumped responsibility onto parents: good luck educating your kids while we try to figure out what to do. In Seattle, where I was teaching in an alternative high school, the union basically told teachers to not do anything until further instructed. Just.Stop.Teaching. And from my perspective, many did exactly that. I was angry and frustrated. I did my best to reach out to my teenage students routinely and we limped along for the most part. But by May, parents and kids were exhausted. The district decided that every student would receive an “A” and full credit for every class on their schedule. While equitable, this failed kids on every level and now, for instance, a student who received an “A” in Algebra with no instruction or work will move on to a higher level math without the scaffolding necessary to support actual learning.
When I decided to address the gap between “online” and actual “learning,” I reached out to a trusted parent and friend, Kara Dowdall. Within hours we committed to providing an academic coaching service to relieve parents of this burden (one of a million during the pandemic) and provide kids with the love, compassion, and motivation needed to feel engaged in their lives and learning. Kara and I collectively are a force of nature – women invested in our youth and the future of this planet. When this kind of female power connects with high level skills, Watch out world, change is gonna come.
And this is our deepest “why” in creating Academics For Life: if we can seize the opportunity presented by this global emergency, we can actually change lives for the better. What if this is the beginning of educational reform that creates fully resourced, confident learners who can meet any challenge? Our intention is to provide such high-quality service in building young minds and skills that this model prevails way past the end of this seemingly endless dark time. We as mothers recognize that the rug has been pulled out from most families because school is, or was, a hopefully safe space for kids six hours a day. We don’t know when that essential child care will return and recognize the frantic scrambling many parents are doing.
The already enormous gap in outcomes for white students as opposed to students of color and those suffering in dire economic/social circumstances has just widened. To that end, Kara and I will not allow this model to devolve into another pathway of white privilege.If underserved kids were suffering before the emergency, this particular patient has just gotten sicker. Kids on the margins are in the education ICU, clinging to life. We will make sure they receive the high-quality help they deserve, using at first a portion of our start-up profits and then grants and donations when our nonprofit arm gets its tax exempt status.
Kara and I feel the pain and have a solution for you and your student-children. Let this be the first step in helping your kids not just bounce back, but forward.For ALL kids, and parents, help is on the way.