Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives.
Trying to Help My Daughter Through Remote Learning
By Becky Cortesi-Caruso
On March 13, 2020, public education as we had once known it to be would be forever changed by a pandemic called COVID-19. At the time, I could tell you as a district administrator that we had no idea how this pandemic would impact our teachers and our students around the nation. As a Director of Special Education, the guidance was changing weekly if not every other day in how to educate students with special needs.
We worked relentlessly to keep up with changes in the guidance, and we also began to plan for what was called, “remote learning.” A term many of us were somewhat familiar with, but we also knew we had a lot of learning to do in the coming months.
Remote learning would become the new way of educating our students across the nation. Behind the scenes, teachers were preparing lesson plans, learning about virtual platforms, and beginning to understand the importance of asynchronous versus synchronous learning.
Asynchronous learning is learning that does not happen at the same time and real time instruction does not exist. Furthermore, synchronous learning is learning that happens at the same time for the teacher and the students meaning that the students are being exposed to live instruction. This type of learning became our reality for reaching out to our students.
The reality began to set in for educators across the United States on how to effectively and systematically plan for instruction for all students.
Hence, what did this mean for special populations of students such as: special education, 504 students, and English Language Learners? It would mean the beginning to a very long journey into the unknown.
As a Director of Special Education, I lost countless nights of sleep trying to examine the best possible options to educate special student populations.
It was personal to me because I was not just a director, but a parent of a daughter that was adopted who has her own unique learning needs. My daughter had recently received an individualized education plan, (IEP) and I was still learning about her educational needs.
I can wholeheartedly state that I might be employed in public education as an administrator, but I was not prepared to take on the role of teacher. I often heard from professionals that all of our students across the nation are going to be behind and will have to play “catch up.”
For a special needs student who is also adopted, it is not that easy to play “catch up.” There is a reason why they have individualized education plans (IEPs). For example, there are gaps in my daughter’s education along with the unknown of her biological parents’ educational difficulties. I have always viewed the IEP as a roadmap into gaining further information into a child’s strengths and areas of improvement. However, remote learning makes this a very difficult task to do for all stakeholders.
As much as the educators attempt to work with my own daughter; remote learning can never replicate face to face education.
Students with special needs require direct in person instruction that can be ongoing and consistent. For many special education students, direct instruction with instant feedback is what they need to be able to perform.
In my experience, my daughter requires a lot of direct instruction in order for her to pay attention and do her best to complete her homework. She knows how difficult it is for her to learn at home and has stated to me that all she wants is for life to go back to normal and to be able to go back to school full-time. Such a wise comment coming from an eight-year-old.
I try to have courageous conversations with my daughter, because, like many families; we have our good and bad days. One day, I decided to take a break from one of our bad days to ask her how she was feeling; kind of like her own interview, which she really liked.
Mom: What is your favorite part of remote learning?
C: I get up and eat vanilla chocolate pancakes which I love. I like when my mom hugs me and tells me everything is going to be ok.
Mom: What is the hardest part about remote learning?
C: I do not like reading, writing and math and it is really difficult for me to do when I am at home. I get really frustrated with myself and then I can feel my body steaming and then I cry and then I scream. Screaming gets me attention, but not in a good way.
Mom: How do you feel when you scream?
C: I feel worse.
Mom: What does a good day of learning look like?
C: When I am in school with my teachers and they are able to help me with my work. I feel good when I am in school going to lunch, recess, PE, and I am able to play with other kids. My teachers know how to teach and are so nice. Mom, you try, but you don’t teach like my teachers.
Mom: What do you miss about being in school five days a week?
C: Mom, I miss everything!
After interviewing C, I began to reflect a lot on how I have been feeling throughout the pandemic, not just as a district administrator, but as a parent. Like many, I feel a certain level of anxiety about the future of my three children.
The platform that we are operating on is not conducive to educating our children. The unique learning needs of each of my children is not being met the way they need it to be. I had to make the most difficult decision of my career to take a leave of absence from work to take care of my children’s educational needs and some of their emotional needs.
I try my hardest each day to get up and be positive about the day, but I know in my heart that with each day they are not in school; they are falling farther behind.
In conclusion, my best advice is to seek support from the relentless educators who are doing their best to help our students, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call another parent who can relate to your circumstances, and most importantly, encourage your child to seek the positive in everyday while we live through this pandemic together.
Our children are resilient and wise human beings who are learning through all of this and will be stronger because of it.
Becky Cortesi Caruso first shared her family’s story with Portrait of an Adoption in 2013.
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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter