CALLED MEETING: SOCIAL LEARNING GROUPS
A Called Meeting to consider request to use the Meeting house to support our families with school-aged children will be held on Sunday, August 9, 3:00 p.m. The Zoom link is: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81560649451 and Meeting ID is 815 6064 9451
Laoma Beck and some Friends have been organizing a plan to use part of our building once a week to provide some in-person social learning experience for the children of our Meeting. Included below is a description of the plan by Laoma, which will help start our discussion:
Social Learning Groups
With Covid numbers on an upward trend and concern over the economy deciding most things, school in Ann Arbor is going virtual. While the AAPS and Governor Whitmore have laid out consistent, logical, and scientifically sound plans/phases, it is unlikely that we in Ann Arbor will be in the phases where it is safe to send our children to school in-building for the entire 2020-21 school year.
I hope I am wrong. I pray for it. I hope our society can think long-term and collectively to put the needs of the youngest before that of the wealthiest and the most entitled. That we can cancel in-person universities and close bars and restaurants. But I have seen no evidence to support this and so I am trying to accept reality as I see it and plan accordingly.
This is hard to accept. It is hard to process. And it is hard to conceive of the sequelae unless you lived with young children through the Spring shutdown. While all of us adult have had to make adjustments, the truth is, we are not at a critical time in our developmental, mental, emotional, and academical growth. So, my planning is focus on the emotion well-being of my children and the children in my sphere of influence.
Our families are incredibly lucky. We have a safe home with light and heat and calm spaces for learning. We had the means to buy an additional chromebook on March 13th. I am a stay-at-home parent with five years of teaching experience and my partner could continue his work from home uninterrupted. My children are eager students who are on track with their academics, and they did fine with the transition to remote learning. Additionally, we had a strong school-based community with established parent connections. Within weeks, my kids had regularly scheduled zoom playdates and zoom lunch meet ups with a handful of classmates and friends.
I am very careful to not use the term ‘pod’ to describe what we are organizing. “Pod” has come to symbolize all the privilege and entitlement of white and wealthy families. These families have been quick to abandon their public schools and hire teachers as private tutors for their kids and perhaps some friends. And I understand the impulse, it is easy to want to think only of you children and your comfort first. But, this is an example of how Americans’ tendency toward individualism hurts the whole community. Without the funding dollars of low-need children, districts cannot serve its high-need children.
My feelings about the equity issues involved are best described and discussed by Dr. Shayla Griffin, https://medium.com/@shaylargriffin/some-students-should-go-to-school-most-should-stay-home-8a57894b8487
I hope you read her article in full, it is one of the best analyses of equity in education and equity in education during Covid-19, that I’ve read anywhere. Her insight is honest and her suggestions practical. The two lines that resonate with me most are:
“Anyone who does not fall into these categories of need must stay home so that there is some hope of educating those who truly cannot stay home safely.”
“I imagine these conversations will have to take place on a county-wide level in which education leaders work together to determine how many students need to be serviced in-person in the county (which includes many different districts) and then share resources, buildings and staff as necessary to make this happen.”
So, my children will be staying home. And I will push for equity in education by encouraging our incredibly well funded school district to work with districts county-wide to care for and educate our neediest and most vulnerable children in the safest and most effective ways possible.
And I will care for the social-well being of my children so that the district can focus on those who need it with their Connect+ groups. I’m proposing what is in essence, a regularly scheduled group play-date. I have spent a month calling and brainstorming with various other families. I’ve listened to concerns of space and concerns of scheduling and concerns of vehicle access. I have attended school board meetings and re-watched clips on youtube. I have reread slide shows and emails from the district as their plans shift and adapt to the ever changing pandemic. We haven’t even got to the hard stuff like group behavior norms, that’s to come.
The ability to use the Meeting space for these SLG is essential. Originally, I had offered our attic, but so many people were uncomfortable with that. They can’t even express why. We thought about building a pavilion or a heated tent or gazebo. We thought about rotating houses. Rob, mentioned the Meeting house. This is a space that doesn’t require some families’ participation to be subsidized by other families. No one takes on more of the risk than anyone else. The issues and subtleties are seemingly endless.
Taking into account all of the above, responding to the release of new updates by AAPS and the Governor’s office, and blooming with the amazing possibility of the Meeting House, the plan has come together as follows:
Seven or eight families (people are still on the fences) plan to form two Social Learning Groups (SLG), one elementary group clustered around 3rd grade and one middle school group. These groups would meet on Wednesdays at the Meeting house. Wednesday was chosen because according to the plan released by the AAPS, there is only asynchronous learning planned.
In good weather we would meet outside in the backyard, as cooler weather comes, we would use the upper floor of the Meeting house. This would include the Meeting room, the Corner room, and the lobby. Currently we have six elementary kids, including Cadir, Amera, and Lena from the Meeting. In the middle school group we have four, possibly five kids, with only Soledad from the meeting.
Depending on how many families actually follow through, each SLG will either meet separately for 3 hrs each Wednesday or both at the same time. In the former, we would have six or seven kids plus one or two adults, for a total of 8 or 9 people in the Meeting house. If in the end we only have three families participating and only six children in total, then would all meet at once with two parents. This would be a total of 8 people in the Meeting House. These respect the guidelines issued by Governor Whitmore that limits the size of indoor gatherings to no more than 10 people. The adults will be a rotation of parents.
I have reached out to many Meeting families. Some have declined because their kids aren’t the right age. Some have declined because they need more, actual full-time childcare for instance. Others, because if they’re going to take such a risk with their kid(s) then it needs to be with their specific friends to make sense. Some families still don’t know what they will be doing for school–some are looking at homeschool, others moving to another state, or even another country, and many are hoping that schools will re-open. I would love to cover the spectrum from babies to high school–I’m like that.
The reality is that I don’t have the social capital to bring together groups where I don’t have a child. I can encourage, I can pave the way, I can open the conversation.
Combining our school-based community with our Meeting community will be an interesting endeavor. Any project of this sort, with the lives of our children and families on the line, takes a lot of trust. For families who don’t know each other, it will be a delicate and slow process. I’m not sure that the 8 families we currently have interested will in the end take part. We will all have to take a hard look at our behaviors during the pandemics and make some difficult changes in order to safe guard the well-being of us all. Not everyone will be able to do that, some will not want to. For Meeting families with kids in age range, … , I have told them that a spot is open should they wish to use it. By not opting in now they give up the ability to shape the conversation regarding rules/norms/schedule/behaviors, but they will still have a space.
I hope Friends can join us on Sunday to discuss these issues.
clerk, Ann Arbor Friends Meeting
Please see the Committe for Children and Families (CCF) page for more details about the Meeting’s children and families programs.