Summer 2020 will be the time to Empower more Parents to Become Teachers in Los Angeles

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 68)

Despite a trove of news reports over these last two months, I believe one cuento that’s still under-reported has been that of a generation of parents in Los Angeles coming to know their children’s education amid this shutdown in ways that may have once been inconceivable.

Living in the tight-knit quarters of Los Angeles’s tiny places for home, it’s safe to say the process for this has been rife with emotions, lung-raising, and bodies shifting reluctantly to rest after lengthy days at home.

In Los Angeles, with 80% of LAUSD’s families at or below the poverty line, it’s meant only doing more with less. Despite the loss of work and income, the education of their children has still had to move forward, even if imperfectly.

I know many students in these families have done their best to keep up with their teachers despite all the last-minute scrambling, but I also know that many others who were already struggling have only been further disconnected. In both cases, it’s been critical for parents to see this at home.

As Superintendent Beutner has pointed out:

“When schools are open it’s relatively simple to measure attendance and have a pretty good sense of a how engaged a student is…You can see it in their body language, their interaction in the classroom, and in their work. Online, it’s not so simple. A login on a computer doesn’t necessarily mean a student’s engaged in learning, and the absence of a login if a student’s reading a book or working on a writing assignment can also be misleading.”

A shared understanding between educators anywhere is that we are constantly learning, and that we only learn more by asking questions of what we see around us. Now, more parents can place educators’ hats on themselves to ask:

Why is my child’s education important?
What tools do I have to support my child’s education, and what tools do I still need?
Despite the most recent challenges, do I still want my child to go to college?

For decades, the ways to create an environment for learning at home in ways that complement an environment for learning at school have been underappreciated, or written off as something there isn’t enough time to scrutinize during the frenzy of a school-year filled with homework assignments, standardized testing, and more. Now, with a summer of online learning ahead in Los Angeles, and possibly even further time at home, there is only more reason for parents to learn with their children.

These parents cannot be alone in this process, because another shared understanding between educators everywhere is that no child can get to college on their own, just as no single teacher can get them there; in fact, it does still take a village.

If that village is not there, then this is the time to call it forward and organize it.

Because here’s one last understanding between educators everywhere: we are not just constantly learning. Our actions ensure that we are also constantly teaching.

So now the question is simply what we want to teach, Los Angeles. The city’s future is counting on us.

J.T.

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A police cruiser is stopped at a light on Sunset boulevard and Vermont avenue.

Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 61

A thread I saw online recently asked people to share one thing they missed about being a pedestrian before the coronavirus uprooted life as we knew it. I replied that I missed nothing, because nothing has fundamentally changed.

During the last sixty days of this series, walking through the city, I’ve only seen more of its poverty exacerbated, transmuting into something more shameful. Not far along, I’ve also seen many of the same police cruisers from before, still whizzing past intersections to goodness knows where, as if the people buried in the sidewalk a few feet away are invisible, or still not enough of a priority to “protect and serve.”

This makes rhetoric from elected officials and several of our newspapers about “reopening” a hollow cry of obliviousness. Even if, for example, the city’s families need to get their kids back in classrooms with utmost haste, as is supposed to be case under “Phase 3” of the “return-to-normal,” in L.A. County that means getting back to schools surrounded by more than 60,000 unhoused people, where encampments crowd sidewalks on the way to school, hang from freeway underpasses located near schools, and where they linger on the paths coming back from school.

There are many intersections abandoned this way throughout metropolitan Los Angeles alone, to say nothing of the county, but it has always been unfair and confounding to let children from our public schools walk past encampments where the failure of our public health system is on full display.

In an interview with Mayor Garcetti last week regarding the extension of the stay-at-home orders in L.A. County, the mayor made an interesting remark:

This is just a dangerous a virus today as it was when it arrived. And we should never become too comfortable. We’re learning to live with it. We are not moving beyond it.”

The exact same is true of a lack of shelter for more than 60,000 in Los Angeles. And the inadequate response to COVID-19 in L.A. these past two months is just an extension of the woeful response to the basic needs of the most vulnerable citizens here throughout a far longer time period.

J.T.

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Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 40

The mayor of Los Angeles announced earlier this evening that delivery drivers, as well as taxi and other transportation workers like Uber and Lyft drivers, can now be tested for coronavirus, whether they show symptoms or not, in a sign of increased testing capabilities for L.A. county.

On the other hand, earlier in the same day, LAUSD’s Superintendent Austin Beutner announced that reopening schools come fall for the district’s communities would be a gradual process, contingent most of all on one thing: access to testing for COVID-19, not only for the district’s employees, of which there are nearly 75,000, but also for the students they serve, whose numbers, combined with those of their families or households, can reach up to 1,000,000 in Los Angeles.

What kind of access schools will have to testing for the virus is an obviously major question that the superintendent is right to pose publicly; only a few days ago, more than a month after the shutdown orders went into effect in California, L.A. County announced that its testing rates have finally reached the capacity to test up to 11,000 people a day.

But while 11,000 tests a day is a key step forward for the county, it’s also just 1.1% of Beutner’s one million. Moreover, as the superintendent noted in his update, we need to know “who” will pay for over a million tests. Obviously, the answer should be that it’s the state who will pay for it, but thus far, there have been scant details from Governor Newsom as to how schools in the Golden State will resume the school-day come the months of August and September, during which LAUSD will not be the only school district in need; charter schools in California, which are not managed by traditional school districts such as LAUSD, and which oversee nearly 630,000 students in the state, will also need access to testing for the virus this fall.

In other words, it’s all quite a bit of homework that requires time, debate, and consensus building with educators, staff and families alike; if the process is circumvented for “quick fixes,” as such things have been before, then the temporary solutions will once again prove costly over the long term, as this pandemic is making clear of decades of disinvestment in the public infrastructure.

Even so, however the story goes, I believe we’re uncovering something critical, Los Angeles. That is, that we’re witnessing first-hand what our state is capable of–and what it still falls short of–when it puts its best minds to the task of addressing all of the citizenry at a truly basic level.

I believe that many people will continue being dissatisfied with the slow process and progress of their government, and that if the protests against Governor Newsom’s stay home orders show anything, it’s that many Californians aren’t at all interested in the general health of the state, but just in their own.

But beyond that, I also believe that all of this showing will allow many of us to consider and visualize what government can still look like in future days to come because it’s important for us to do just that. I believe that whatever failures are seen today, are what those of us leading for tomorrow can turn into successes.

As always, I believe in the next day, the next cuento, and that I’m not alone in this.

I believe Los Angeles will believe with me.

J.T.

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