Today marks a full year since I have had students physically in my classroom. Even as our lives were all beginning to change right before our eyes, who could have imagined then where we would be today, only now seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.
Teaching online has made me think a lot about equity. In the classroom, we know that our students have different backgrounds, needs, and challenges, and we do our best to provide a level playing field and to support each student where they're at.
In a virtual classroom, that unequal footing is laid bare. Tiny Zoom screens offer small windows into the lives of these kids, yielding insights into how the pandemic has highlighted some of the structural problems that have been there all along.
I keep thinking about the student who can't find a quiet place to work at home, who takes her laptop to the car to focus where, if she's lucky, the connection won't drop. I wonder about the students who never show up, whose parents never pick up the phone or respond to emails.
I wonder also why zip code should have anything to do with the quality of education a child receives. This isn't by accident, of course. It's designed that way, and it perpetuates systemic inequalities that underlie so many of our society's greatest challenges. If we choose to learn from this experience, maybe one day we can look back and see this time as an inflection point when we decided to do better.
Travis Ramirez is a member of St. Matt’s and teaches 8th grade at Tropico Middle School in Rosamond, CA.