The sun is always shining above the clouds. During the middle of the COVID-19 earthquake that left parents across the country shaken, the clouds parted the educational system hurricane we had been battling for decades. Suddenly, the path to smaller class sizes, less teacher burnout, more parental choice, and individualized student attention emerged through the faint ray of hope. Pods started to spring up everywhere as if Jack himself had planted them and parents across the country scurried for a chance to send their kids to a better learning frontier.
Beyond social distancing, while important, the fundamental values of a pod structure provide solutions to educational issues that parents, teachers, and politicians have been trying to address for decades. One of more valuable benefits is a small "class" size and individualized student focus. Learning challenges become more apparent and early intervention more common. Teachers have more bandwidth for each student, and can more freely connect with parents. It allows the pendulum to swing back to the idea that education is about holistic child development instead of linear movement based on standardized tests. The concept allows flexibility and adjustment as uncertainty surrounding the upcoming school year looms overhead.
Unfortunately at the top of the bean stalk lays a giant that has emerged from its slumber and is rightfully angry about having been asleep in the first place. Socioeconomic and racial inequality is ready to pounce and squash the pod stalk at the roots. With any great new concept comes a new set of challenges to overcome. Hopefully, we have learned from our past mistakes in education, and can move forward together in a way that allows parents to unite to fight the giant. Let's work together to make pod learning accessible to any family that wishes to make the climb and JOIN A POD.
School districts individually rallied to develop educational plans, programs, and options that promote the social distancing measures necessary to keep the country healthy. However, districts have to plan for situations that will have the greatest impact for the majority. This approach naturally limits educational value, and the varied solutions rarely meet the full needs of each family.
VARIED FAMILY DYNAMICS
Each situation is unique based on the age and grade level children. Beyond the considerations in a normal learning environment parents now have a wider range of dynamics to consider:
Are there family members that are immunocompromised and sending kids back to school in any capacity is a risk?
I'm a parent, but also have to work. I feel like I can't work and teach my child effectively. Both are priority, and I don't know how to choose.
How long can a kiddo remain in isolation until the mental health concern outweighs the physical health concern? And which do you choose?
Even if I send my kids back to school will they stay in classes anyway? I've heard students are being sent to online learning almost as soon as the doors open.
Are our children really going to learn anything during shortened class times or virtual instruction? Will most of the day be spent on proper placement of masks?
Educational methods are ever-evolving, and are parents really equipped to assist in educating their children?
The questions are never-ending and good answers were hard to find. In an effort to bridge the gap parents started forming the concept of PODS.
The U.S. education system was inundated with challenges to overcome long before COVID-19. Funding was never enough to pay teachers what they deserve. Programs were limited by budget constraints. Class sizes too big. Educational value based on income disparity. The list goes on.
Then a global pandemic crashed into the U.S. and the impact was sent shockwaves through the schools, leaving parents with even fewer options and impossible choices.
Parents were on to something, and started to go out and find teachers and groups of students to develop their own pods. This idea took root and grew like bamboo. However, it wasn't long before major concerns with parent sponsored pod solutions emerged:
In a time when social justice is in the forefront of our minds these well meaning parents are unintentionally creating a long term impact on the socioeconomic and racial divide. Kids with means will get a more quality education than those without. This has the potential for creating even more disparity for generations.
Parents are hiring a teacher or tutor without doing thorough background, reference, and educational checks. At the same time that our news outlets are swarming with COVID-19 and protest coverage they are also sounding the alarm on the rise in child abuse, neglect, and sex trafficking. We would like to think we know our friends, but how often is it heard: "We just never thought he'd do something like that!"
CONSISTENCY & STABILITY
The pods may be unstructured and uncoordinated with some kids showing up and others not. The days, programs, and expectations of the instructor are often not clearly defined. Our kids needs consistency and stability now more than ever.
Parents are often hosting these parent created pods. Liability, state, and local laws regarding what is considered a "daycare" is often not first considered. Parent liability has the potential to bring this new way to educate crumbling down.
Parents must have an agreement with one another to maintain a distancing plan that works for each family. This is the main reason our school systems have put families in the position to need pods in the first place.