Ms. Fuentes’ colorfully decorated classroom.

We are grateful for Ms. Fuentes to join us – she was our first interview outside our personal circles. because she gave voice to our pandemic experiences as teachers, I reached out to her after hearing the culminating episode of The New York Times’ The Daily podcast’s series on her high school in Odessa, TX. I distinctly remember pausing as I scrubbed my tub to hear her describe the brave new world of hybrid teaching that I knew I would be venturing into here in Seattle.

The love and concern Ms. Fuentes has for her students attracted me to her story and radiates as much in our interviews as they did on The Daily. Here, she tells Rashon and I about the struggles to keep her students engaged during the initial shutdown of her school’s building.

By Mr. Rangel; 6th Grade Resource Teacher in Seattle

“But, I am sure educators are up for that challenge. We are willing to provide our heart & soul to make sure the future of this country is bright and will be led by strong and capable people.”

-Mr. Rangel

As most teachers and students are returning to class and the pandemic seems to be finally ending, I can’t seem to forget how the pandemic was going to have us “rethink” education to better serve our students. We went through many changes throughout this year, but I do not think we were able to achieve the goal of restructuring the education system significantly. There are many aspects that have continued throughout this pandemic and will persist for more years to come. Don’t get me wrong, I am a product of the American Public-School system and can’t say it’s all bad. Plus, many important changes took place during the pandemic, which I feel should’ve been implemented LONG ago.

Inclusion         

Mr. Rangel hoped his Advisory would win the door decorating contest. Fall 2019

To start, inclusion has been a focus on the American school system for some time now and I feel we should continue to hash this out and truly include all members of the learning community. As we’ve seen during the past year, social relationships are vital when it comes to student’s well being and success. If all students of different ability levels were to be integrated as much as possible throughout the school day, it would lead to stronger relationships and more compassion for students, especially those furthest from educational justice.

1-1 Tech

          Schools also realized the importance of 1-1 technology during the past year. This has been a long time coming and students should’ve been provided with technology much earlier. Our world is overrun with technology and computers, children need to be exposed to it and learn important skills as early as possible. This should also be provided to students, whether they can afford it or not. These changes and resources need to be accessible to everyone to make sure we provide the most equitable education to all students.

Flexibility

Mr. Rangel after a long day – and this was before the pandemic.

          Another positive that came out of the chaos that was the pandemic, was the implementation of a more flexible school week. Whether it is hybrid learning, 4 days a week, or splitting students into cohorts, the concept of allowing students more time at home and away from the school building will prove to be beneficial in the long run. I feel like our time during the week can be re-structured in a way where, even in a shorter amount of time, students will be more productive and will be able to retain information easier. As long as there is a focus on community building, effective productivity, and supporting mental health, schools can shift to providing opportunities for students to learn in the real-world and away from the traditional “brick and mortar” school house.

          Of course, there are many obstacles to jump through to be able to actually re-structure education. The allocation of resources, tailoring curriculum to meet the needs of the 21st century, and providing high quality training to teachers will always prove to be a challenge. But, I am sure educators are up for that challenge. We are willing to provide our heart and soul to make sure the future of this country is bright and will be led by strong and capable people. Many have been working towards this goal for years, and it is up to the next generation of educators, advocates, and families to come together and make the changes necessary to ensure the success of all our students.