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Saturday, December 10, 2022

Audio Astra: Kansas schools somehow, if scarcely, get through grueling 24 months – Kansas Reflector

Audio Astra is reviewing recent audio reporting on Kansas news, including podcasts and radio stories. Eric Thomas leads the Kansas Scholastic Press Association and teaches visual journalism and photojournalism at the University of Kansas.

“School is out forever”

This American Life, 11 March 2022

Last week, “This American Life” released an episode titled, “School’s Out Forever.” Host and correspondent Chana Joffe-Walt introduced us to two students in crisis: Girls who suffered extraordinary disruption from their schools during the pandemic.

While I admire the episode in many ways, I do not completely agree with how the program describes the well-being of American schools.

In the episode, one student struggles through the online school while her working mother dutifully watches her – from a distance – while she is at work. By installing security cameras paired with her phone, the mother watches her daughter and keeps her job.

The other student drifts away from her Los Angeles school and to Mexico, where she disappears completely from her school community. No books, no Zoom classes, no assignments, no fellow students. As documented in the audio story, her return to Los Angeles tests her school and her emotional resilience.

The reporting here is extraordinary: Joffe-Walt tells the haunting stories of these students throughout the pandemic with disturbing emotional details and familiar pandemic dilemmas that both students and parents face.

Also in the episode, Joffe-Walt and many of the educators with whom she interviews insist that the pandemic has fundamentally broken schools – an argument that seems more overemphasized every time we hear it.

From one interview with a teacher who regrets how he sees his relationship with the school shattered: “I just feel like the seal is broken, and I do not – and it’s hard for me to imagine a world to to return to that magic. “

Joffe-Walt later reflects: “So many of the people I spoke to questioned the premise of school, whether it was worth it, whether they had to show up every day, or whether they had to be in a classroom.

“It’s like everyone involved – children, parents, managers, teachers, superintendents – everyone realized at the same time, hey, this treadmill has a switch. This place is not a fact. School is not inevitable. ”

She also says the school is among the American institutions that experience the program’s staff as unraveling.

“We do a few episodes about people facing things that feel like they’re falling apart in front of them,” says Joffe-Walt.

I see this moment in education in a different way.

For me, American schools did not unravel, but they were traumatized. Schools have been bruised and plagued over three academic years by masking debates, poor attendance, staffing issues and teachers leaving the profession.

For me, American schools did not unravel, but they were traumatized. Schools have been bruised and plagued over three academic years by masking debates, poor attendance, staffing issues and teachers leaving the profession.

Schools have certainly been defeated by those forces and more, but they are not being wiped out. Schools got out of sight for many students during the fog of the pandemic, but they did not evaporate.

When Joffe-Walt says: “When something is always present and indisputable in your life for a year, you learn it’s not the only way to do things. And there is no ignorance of that. “

She is certainly correct that some vulnerable students and teachers have completely lost contact with the school.

Many, however, maintained their weak connection with the school during 24 grueling months. They’ve been toggling through Zoom classes and online assignments so they can now return to a more normal school day. Indeed, this moment seems like a strange time to make that claim that the school has disappeared, just as students return to their most authentic version of classroom life: without masks, with a low viral spread, with more robust staff, and with ‘ an optimistic outlook.

Of course, it is essential that the personal school is not “out forever”. Along with a million other reasons, a CDC report this week provides a timely one: Many students need school as a safe haven from a dangerous home life.

The CDC report documents shocking data on teen health: rates of suicide attempts, along with emotional and physical abuse at home.

“The data underscores the protective role that schools can play in the lives of young people,” Kathleen Ethier of the CDC told the New York Times.

As we approach the end of the school year, there are other hopeful signs that the trauma has not completely destroyed our schools.

Next week I will be visiting some schools in Kansas to celebrate some of these successes – against all odds – during the pandemic.

At one school, I will meet with dozens of student journalists and their teacher in a newsroom where they are collecting an award-winning student publication. We will surprise their editor-in-chief with an award that recognizes her courage in reporting. Her work has changed how her school handles a sensitive issue.

At another school, I would surprise a young teacher who helped students create more than 600 pages of yearbook during two years of pandemic. Letters of recommendation for the teacher explain how students find joy in the teacher’s classroom.

At my son’s school, he and friends ran out of track and field practice yesterday to polish one of their favorite teachers by carpet-bombing his classroom with toilet paper.

At my daughter’s school, her maths class is exciting and insecure, the kind of class that is definitely difficult, but also led by a vibrant and friendly teacher.

It is true that at some point this trauma seemed like an unraveling. Many of our students have lost years in their education and can take years to even partially recover.

But my optimism comes from one simple fact: Schools are still here to serve students. These institutions have faltered to the relative safety of today.

During the episode, one of the students is faced with a choice whether to return to her previous school or enroll at a school that is closer to her home: “Maybe somewhere closer, (the teacher) asked? No, Maricela said. She would prefer to go back to the school she knows. ”

I think most students feel the same. They want to go back to the school they know, even if that school takes a while to fully heal.

What did we miss? Email [email protected] to let us know about a Kansas-based audio program that will be of interest to Audio Astra readers.

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